* Test 'Frankenstein food' on humans to assess risks, urges Meacher
* MEACHER SACKED AFTER INDUSTRY LOBBYING
Test 'Frankenstein food' on humans to assess risks, urges Meacher
Kamal Ahmed, political editor The Observer
The Observer, UK, Sunday June 15, 2003
Trials on humans to test the health risks of GM crops should be carried out over the next decade, according to the former Minister who had responsibility for the issue.
Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister who until his resignation on Friday led the Government's policy on GM crops, said last night that without the tests the public could never be sure that GM crops were safe.
His intervention into the fraught debate on the future of what some call 'Frankenstein foods' is one of the most important in the public debate on the issue which was launched by the Government earlier this month.
While in government, Meacher was well known for his expertise on the crops. The Government is set to make a decision in the autumn about whether to allow the commercial planting of GM crops across Britain.
Supporters say that the use of GM crops will reduce the need for pesticides and will lead to greater yields to help feed poorer countries.
But Meacher revealed that as yet no 'human feeding trials' have taken place, making it impossible to decide whether there was a risk to human health or not. The Observer revealed earlier this month that the British Medical Association is likely to launch a review of its assessment of the dangers of GM crops to human health. The organisation is likely to soften its stance on the risk to human health after Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said she had seen no evidence of a risk.
Meacher said: 'The health impact has had very little attention, but it is an amazing fact - an arresting and sobering fact - that there have been no human feeding trials.'
Meacher, who quit the Government as part Tony Blair's reshuffle last week, said that human trials similar to those used to test new drugs should be introduced.
'If you really wanted to know the impact on human beings shouldn't there be human tests?' he said. 'I am not against GM crops, I just believe we should be cautious,' he said.
MORE ON MEACHER'S DEPARTURE FROM THE GOVERNMENT
MEACHER SACKED AFTER INDUSTRY LOBBYING
Earlier this week, the Sunday Telegraph in an article entitled 'Knives out for Meacher in row over GM crops', suggested that his job was under threat following pressure from the biotech industry because of his cautious attitude toward GM crops. The article identified "Dr Paul Rylott, a senior executive with the chemical giant Bayer, who heads a coalition [the ABC] of GM seed producers including Dupont and Monsanto" as leading Meacher's critics. The article said, "The GM lobby regard him as an obstacle to the development of such crops in Britain". http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/06/08/nmeac h08.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/06/08/ixhome.html
But according to the Financial Times Michael Meacher "quickly dispelled any hopes in Downing Street that he might opt for the quiet life, saying in an interview that he would be vocal in the Commons. He is likely to be a leading figure in the debate now underway on whether to introduce commercially grown GM crops to Britain... Mr Meacher appeared to be a victim of his doubts about GM foods. He made no secret of his views yesterday: "The whole issue of the GM debate is very much with us ...I shall now be extremely active on this. People in this country must be able to give their views and government must fully take that into account in the way in which they take their decision." He added: "There's an opportunity, if people feel there is great uncertainty about the future impact of GM crops, to invoke the precautionary principle because there have in fact been no health trials of the impact of consuming GM foods on human beings at all. And this is a reason why we need to be duly cautious."
"With the Government's GM public debate barely 10 days old, the one minister urging caution on this issue has been sacked. This increases fears that the Government won't listen to public opinion and is preparing to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK," said Tony Juniper of FoE. http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/blair_sacks_meacher0.html
Meacher vows to keep up GM crops campaign from backbench
Meacher a loss to GM crop debate, Daily Telegraph
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