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GM-reader letters to the INDEPENDENT




Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

GM Foods - What the readers think: Your letters

Arguments put forward by the big food producers claiming that GM crops
will benefit the Third World by feeding the hungry are regarded with
scepticism by many readers, whose letters display a growing cynicism.

Denys and Janet Goose, of Shrewsbury, write: "Although the firms concerned
are driven primarily by the question of profit, they are presenting
themselves as motivated in an altruistic attempt to alleviate world food
shortage." Like many of our correspondents, the Gooses' concern for the
Third World is matched by worry about their own diet. "The Government
should stop saying that the public is already informed as to which foods
are genetically altered. This is simply not true since about 60 per cent
of processed foods such as some soups, 'ready' meals etc use soya extracts
which are already mixed at source by the addition of genetically altered
material and are therefore unable to be labelled correctly."

Avoiding GM foods is a particular problem for vegetarians.

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Jenny Jones, of Tintern, near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, writes:
"Vegetarians are having a tough time. Soya is a main ingredient and source
of protein for vegetarians. Now, not only are 'uncontaminated' supplies
difficult to be sure of, but other vegetarian foods, which in themselves
are not being genetically modified, are being prepared with GM soya-based
flavourings."

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Garfield Marcus Gabbard and Tracy Parker-Adlam, of Woking, Surrey, who
have not eaten meat for more than 20 years, say: "We rely on basic food
produce to sustain a relatively healthy diet. . soya milk is one of our
fundamental sources of nutrition and now we learn that only Plamil Soya
milk is GM-free."

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Mrs Robin Hildyard, of Scrayingham, near York, writes as a farmer who is
worried about the impact on the environment. "GM foods may or may not be
'safe' to eat - it is the huge damage it will do to every factor of life
that is at stake and especially to bees. There are trial plots near me
which will harm our bees and without bees there will be no fruit, no
flowers, no vegetables."

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Janet Turner, a beekeeper, of Totnes, Devon, asks: "How will I keep my
bees away from the 'poisonous' pollen?"

John Phipps, editor of Beekeepers Quarterly and a beekeeper, writes:
"Could I have the same rights for my bees as the MPs have in their
members' dining room - to feed on non-GM food? . Do you not think that if
GM crops (particularly oil seed rape - an important honey crop) were grown
widespread through the UK, a GM label on honey and pollen would lead to
these products becoming unsaleable? To most people 'pure honey' and
'contains food from a GM source' are exact opposites."

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Pauline Marstraud, a biologist, of Tollesbury, Essex, has spent many years
working as a member of official advisory committees on agriculture and
food resources, and believes strongly that herbicide-resistant crops will
lead, through cross-pollination, to strains of supercrops and weeds.
"Production of crops resistant to herbicides or pests should be viewed
with extreme caution, and not be accepted unless for production in
greenhouses or other enclosed environments. The risk of producing
pest-resistant and herbicide-resistant strains of either crops or weeds is
enormous."

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Ian Turner, of Yalding, Kent, found a succinct quotation which sums up the
views of many of our readers. "Is it not the responsibility of the
Government to promote one form of farming practice over another? The role
of the Government is to regulate in order to protect consumers, conserve
the environment, protect bio-diversity and animal welfare. It is for the
organic movement to spread the message to conventional farmers and the
public that organic farming inherently meets those objectives." Who said
it? Jack Cunningham in November 1998.

* If you would like to voice your views on GM food, we will pass on your
letters to the cabinet "enforcer", Jack Cunningham. Write to GM Campaign,
Independent on Sunday, 1, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL.