Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Harvest of Opinion

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Harvest of Opinion

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

A national debate on GM crops which opens today could just be a token event which has no affect on Government policy, a North-East expert warns.

During the next two weeks there will be six regional conferences on the controversial crops, with Harrogate being the closest venue to the North-East.

It is hoped the events will encourage people to hold their own local debates on genetically modified foods until the middle of July.

After the results from all levels of the debate have been collated the steering board running it will produce a report for Government by the end of September.

The government will make a written response to the report and take account of the outcome from the public debate when making future policy decisions on GM issues.

But Newcastle University's Tom Wakeford said yesterday: "To have a debate is no bad thing but the worry is that it could be an irrelevance. I think it is tokenism as far as the Government is concerned."

Dr Wakeford is a research associate at the university's policy, ethics and life sciences institute based at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

He has been an advisor to the Government on consultations on GM issues for six years but fears that the Government is leaning towards the introduction of GM crops anyway.

He said the pounds 500,000 it has invested in the debate and that there was to be no regional event in the North-East, were disappointing.

"I think it takes more than that for people to feel they have had their say," he said.

" I fear that GM crops could be a fait accompli unless there is an uprising and strong reaction during the debate. It could rebound on the Government," he said.

"The question is whether the debate produces a reaction so powerful that it forces the Government to rethink. …

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