20 November 2002
SENIOR MEDICAL FIGURES CALL FOR GM BAN TO SAFEGUARD PUBLIC HEALTH - BBC
The British Medical Association (BMA) is a professional medical body representing more than 80% of British doctors.
Doctors want GM crop ban
BBC News, Wednesday, 20 November, 2002
Genetically modified (GM) crop trials in Scotland should be halted immediately as a "precautionary measure" to safeguard public health, senior medical figures have said.
The British Medical Association (BMA) was making its case for a moratorium in a submission to the Scottish Parliament's health committee on Wednesday.
Its submission said that "insufficient care" has been taken over public health and concerns are "serious enough" to justify an immediate end to the trials.
The BMA's stance has been backed by some opposition parties but the Scottish Executive said there was "no evidence" that the field trials "were inherently harmful".
The concerns doctors have about the impact GM foodstuffs may have on our long-term health are serious enough to warrant a precautionary approach
The professional medical body represents more than 13,500 doctors in Scotland and more than 80% of British doctors.
Its submission to MSPs said: "There has not yet been a robust and thorough search into the potentially harmful effects of GM foodstuffs on human health.
"On the basis of the precautionary principle, farm scale trials should not be allowed to continue."
It added: "The concerns doctors have about the impact genetically modified foodstuffs may have on our long-term health are serious enough to warrant a precautionary approach."
The "most worrying" issue according to the BMA is the potential danger posed by GM crops in creating antibiotic resistance in humans leading to new diseases.
'Risk to the public' The submission said: "Although the risk is not yet known, any increase in the number of resistant micro-organisms through the transfer of markers from GM foods would potentially have very serious adverse effects on human health."
It also called for the executive to monitor the health of people living near GM crop trial sites and conduct more research and provide more public information.
Scottish National Party environment spokesman Bruce Crawford backed the BMA's stance and said ministers had to "act now to avoid any further risk to the public".
He added: "It is clear that GM crops are not being regulated correctly and there has not been enough research into the negative side effects of public health."
Green MSP Robin Harper has tabled a motion in the parliament calling for the GM trials to be halted because of the BMA's concerns.
"The executive must now take the advice of the medical profession, plough in the existing trials and not allow any more to be planted," he said.
But a spokesman for the Scottish Executive denied that public health was being put in danger.
No safety question
"The executive considered the farm scale evaluations a sensible precautionary step to take before any commercialisation decisions on these particular GM crops are taken," he said.
"There's no current evidence to suggest that these particular GM crops, that is the trials in Scotland, are inherently harmful."
The spokesman said they had been scrutinised by various bodies including the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre), the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
He added: "The Scottish Executive would not promote the planting of GM crops in the farm scale evaluation programme if there was any question about their safety."