GENTECH archive


RE: Guardian live debate on GM

Sent to me by John Whiting - thanks


The Guardian GE debate last night in Central Hall, playing to a 
packed house, set out, in the words of the Guardian editor, to 
"generate more light than heat", but the temperature rose as 
inexorably as ever. As an anti-GE rally it was quite 
satisfactory, but as a source of information it was 
disappointing. I know almost nothing more on the subject than I 
have posted on this list, but I didn't pick up a single fact last 
night that I didn't already know, and several that I knew 
positively to be untrue. If your computer is equipped with Real 
Audio, you can access the Guardian web site and listen to all two 
hours of it, but don't bother.

As usual, no one asked whether any scientists anywhere, with 
agribusiness financing, were working on the enhancing, or even 
the preservation, of species variety and flavour. The movers and 
shakers are concerned with economics, politics and nutrition (in 
that order); but who, except for us self-indulgent elitists, 
cares about FOOD? 

John Whiting


The [London] Guardian  February 26 1999

Risk of escaped GM food genes

Sarah Hall

GENES from genetically modified foods could evade scientists' 
control, "leak out" and infect other organisms, an eminent 
genetics professor warned yesterday.

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London, 
said evolution was " predictable" and organisms' genetic make up 
altered naturally as they developed resistance.

He added: "The genes you put in may actually leak out and get to 
places where we can't control them ... Genes can leap in the most 
extraordinary and alarming way. There's no reason to say the same 
thing cannot happen in genetically modified plants. It only has 
to happen once. The dangers are really quite real."

Prof Jones was speaking last night at a Guardian debate - GM 
Foods: Where does the truth lie? - at Westminster Central Hall, 
central London.

Likening the Green movement to Nazism in its reactionary 
ignorance and emotiveness, he said he [nevertheless] supported a 
moratorium on growing GM crops in Britain.

"I definitely think we need more knowledge before we make the 
same mistakes with GM foods that we made with penicillin - and I 
most clearly think we should stop doing this until we know more 
about it," he said.

Guardian columnist and visiting professor at Green College, 
Oxford, George Monbiot, warned there was a major gulf between the 
manufacturers' claim for GM foods and what they really intended 
to do: rather than increase food production in the next century, 
they would be "the hunger merchants of the new millennium. "

He said the aim of genetic engineering was to wrest control of 
"the biggest commodity market of all - namely food".

Christopher Leaver, professor of plants science at Oxford 
university, claimed GM food was needed in the future for a 
burgeoning population - set to rise from its current 5.6 billion 
to 8 billion by 2020.

It was also required as a potential source of energy in a world 
of unrenewable energy sources, while GM plants, resistant to heat 
and drought, would enable those in the Third World to have a 
better quality of life.

He also spoke of the scientists working at developing vaccines 
and antibodies in GM plants which could be used against diseases 
such a cholera.

Rising to hisses of disapproval, Steve Smith, managing director 
of Novartis Seeds, a producer of GM maize consumed in this 
country, said it was not in his company's interest to make unsafe 
products. "Unless we have public confidence, we will not have 
products and we will not have a business," he added.

He said his company would still market non-GM foods, would label 
products clearly, and welcome regulation. When he claimed GM 
plants were sown sufficiently far away to prevent 
cross-pollination, he was greeted with cries of "We don't believe 

Closing the speeches, Joan Ruddock, MP said: "The truth is no one 
knows in the future whether there will be any long-term effects 
on human or animal health of eating GM foods."

You can follow the Guardian's food debate on the Guardian network