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brit chefs call for ban on 'freakish' GM foods



INDEPENDENT (London) JAN 27 1999


More than 100 chefs and food writers launched a campaign to oppose
"freakish" genetically modified food yesterday. Antonio Carluccio, Antony
Worrall Thompson, Fay Maschler and Annie Bell, food writer for The
Independent, were among those who pledged to secure a ban on the release
of all genetically modified (GM) organisms into the food chain.

The writers, who are backed by the environmental group Greenpeace, said
they would not lend their names to any products including GM ingredients
and would endorse restaurants that do not use GM food.

In a joint statement, they said: "As food professionals we object to the
introduction of [GM] foods into the food chain. This is imposing a genetic
experiment on the public, which could have unpredictable and irreversible
adverse consequences. "

The launch of the campaign came after a report by a House of Lords
committee last week, which concluded that the benefits of GM foods far
outweighed the risks. The report said that the technology could bring
benefits and help to feed the world.

But the author Joanna Blythman, who is spearheading the anti-GM campaign,
said yesterday that it was not a precise science and the long-term effects
were not known.

"People are fed up with technological tinkering and they want food they
can trust," she said.

"You would have thought people would have learnt the dangers after the BSE
crisis, but if this goes wrong it will make the fall-out from BSE look
like child's play." She warned that GM food could endanger health and
imperil the environment because the genes could escape from the crops
through the release of seeds and create "superweeds", which would lead to
ever-increasing use of herbicides.

"Once they are released into the environment there is no way to get them
back," she said.

Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, said the food
writers were reflecting public anger about the way food was produced.

In a recent Mori poll, 61 per cent of respondents said they would not be
happy to eat genetically modified food.

"The public must be told about the GM ingredients that are already
appearing in processed foods. People are eating GM food without knowing
it," he said. A spokesman for Monsanto, the leading genetic food company,
said GM foods were rigorously tested and strictly regulated.

"Monsanto has always wanted a debate about this but we are concerned to
hear criticism that is without foundation. There is a strict regulatory
process and the products are tested for allergies and other effects."

A spokesman for Asda said the supermarket chain had asked suppliers of its
own-label brands to stop using GM ingredients, or, if that was not
possible, clearly to label the products that contain them.

Hundreds of foods containing GM ingredients are already on supermarket
shelves.

They include bread, biscuits, pasta and packet soups. The main GM
ingredients are some types of soya, maize and tomatoes.



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