GM Trials Must Be Halted Say Experts

Article excerpt

Byline: SEAN POULTER

TRIALS on genetically-modified crops should be halted immediately, warns a Government-funded report.

The study by some of the country's leading scientists highlights the collapse of public confidence in food safety rules.

It accuses ministers and civil servants of ignoring early warnings about the inadequacy of existing regulations.

Politicians and GM scientists were wrong and arrogant to dismiss legitimate health and environment concerns, says the report by the Economic and Social Research Council's Global Environment Change unit.

It raises serious question marks about the quality of advice from Government experts including its chief scientist, Sir Robert May, who has played a key role in deciding policy.

It also calls for biotech companies to face prosecution if their products cause poisoning.

The findings are particularly embarrassing for the Government as the study was funded by the taxpayer - and its authors, from universities across the country, are independent.

They recommend that Ministers should call a halt to all GM crop trials until there is a proper regulatory system to examine whether such foods are acceptable on safety grounds and whether they are necessary at all.

One of the authors, Andy Stirling, senior fellow at Sussex University, said current safety regulations could not cope with GM technology.

'With GM foods many of the possible outcomes are difficult to anticipate in advance,' he said. 'The current regulatory regime doesn't work because it is too narrow.

'It looks at the safety of individual GM products, but the public takes a much more profound approach.

'They want to know whether these things are necessary at all, whether there are other ways to deliver wholesome food at a reasonable price, and how you can withdraw from this technology if it does not work. …