GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Mp warns on genetically modified food




By Hamish Macdonell, Parliamentary Staff, PA News Britain and Europe
must stand up to the United States and not let American food giants
flood the market with genetically-modified maize and soya, the Commons
was told today. 

Labour's Colin Pickthall (Lancashire W), introducing a short debate on
genetically-modified food, also said that retailers should have to label
food properly so the public was aware of what was in the products they
bought. 

The Government ruled earlier this month that an illegal form of
genetically-altered American maize would not be allowed into Britain
until the EU had completed tests to discover if it could be harmful to
human health. 

The Consumers' Association also warned last week that sales of
genetically-modified (GM) foods would "rocket" over the next few years. 

Genetically-modified plants and crops are ones whose attributes have
been altered by scientists using animal genes to produce "super"
varieties. 

Mr Pickthall said there were many examples of genetically-engineered
food, from tomatoes which took a long time to rot to salmon which were
engineered to prevent them wanting to return to their spawning grounds. 

The Labour MP said he knew labelling was difficult but he added:
"Consumers in my view have the absolute right to know what goes into
their food, however problematic the labelling process might be." 

He said: "The Government and the EU should resist the power of giant
food companies in the United States who are effectively dictating in
this field what we must eat with no effective estimate given to their
long-term effects." 

And Mr Pickthall argued that the Government should "dig in our heels" on
the issue in Europe to ensure that European regulations protect the
people of Europe from ill effects from genetically-modified food. 

Mr Pickthall said the vast majority of genetically-engineered food was
inadequately labelled. 

He did not believe that the public, the Government or the EU knew what
the long-term effects to human health and agriculture would be of
genetic engineering. "We may well ... be acting as guinea pigs," he
warned. 

Junior agriculture minister Angela Browning said there were concerns
about the GM issue. "It does have benefits, but we have to strike a
balance." The Government would wait until the various European Union
committees had reported on the matter of GM maize. 

Ministers believed that the committees would recommend that a marketing
consent was issued. 

On the general question of GM food she said: "We are not gung-ho about
this, we think a cautious approach is needed on a case by case basis." 

Later supermarket giant Tesco announced it is banning genetically
modified maize as an animal feed ingredient in its meat supply. 

Dr Steven Shaw, Tesco technical director, said: "Safely introduced, the
products of genetic modification can bring great benefits to our
customers. 

"However, sufficient doubts exist about the safety of this new maize,
that we believe our customers would expect us to take this precautionary
action." 

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