Monday, October 13, 2003

GM crop trials should start over, says Meacher

One of the weedkillers used in the farm-scale trials, atrazine, is now no longer going to be available in the EU. Since the weedkiller has been used in one of the regimes under test, this suggests that the results may be invalid. But we can breathe easy. The trials were a waste of time from the start.

The trials don't give us any information on the safety of GM crops, or whether they are more efficient. The main purpose is to see what effect GM would have on the environment and wildlife. But the real purpose of the trials was to put off the ugly business of making a decision. As Tony Gilland notes as part of spiked's online debate about GM, 'Back in 1998, GMHT sugar beet, maize and some oil-seed rape crop varieties had already been assessed by the regulatory authorities, and were found to pose no risk to human health or the environment.'

Meanwhile, he notes, 'From 1998 onwards, endless panics about GM technology - from 'superbugs' to 'superweeds' and 'poisonous potatoes' - have been promoted, all of which play on contemporary prejudices about the frailty of nature and the destructive impact of man. Government, industry and all involved with the development of GM technology have failed at every step to counter such fears. We have heard little about the importance of human innovation, or of our longstanding ability to overcome problems when things don't go precisely to plan.'

In other words, there is little reason to believe that GM is a problem. Moreover, as we develop GM technology, we may come up against problems that we need to tackle. Experience suggests we can solve such problems. But the Precautionary Principle rejects innovation because we can't guarantee it will be safe. This is a pointless barrier to innovation.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Flawed GM tests must start over'


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