Debate on GM food vital, says Rooker
"I accept the argument that genetic modification is not simply speeding up the natural process. It cannot be when genes are mixed from different species. There is some comfort in the regulatory process for medicine which, I admit, is not in place for food and agriculture....."
He said that in 1998 and there have been no significant improvements in the regulatory process since.
Labour conference: Debate on GM food vital, says Rooker
Farmers Weekly interactive, 28 September 2009
Consumers will not welcome genetically-modified food into their diets until GM technology is proven to benefit them, according to the chairman of the Foods Standards Agency.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Monday (28 September), Jeff Rooker said people were willing to accept GMs in terms of medicines, but food was different.
“Until manufacturers can produce products that have clear consumer benefits, then there will always be a problem explaining GMs to the public,” he said.
“That’s because so far all the benefits are for the producer, rather than the consumer.
“If claims that crops can be grown in drought areas then there’s an obvious benefit there, but in the last ten years where are the new products?”
Lord Rooker said many of the UK’s GM researchers had gone to work in laboratories abroad because of public and industry unwillingness to discuss the potential of furthering GM research.
The FSA had embarked on a year-long project to encourage people to have an open debate about GM food, he added.
Tom MacMillan, Food Ethics Council executive director, said it was important the project looked at the wider implications of GM technology, rather than just asking for peoples’ opinions.
“We need to look at GMs in terms of food security. If we increase food productivity for some people you can exacerbate the problems in other countries, he said.
“We need a complete debate and food production and food security.”
DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn agreed it was vital to have a debate about the viability of GM production.
Speaking at an NFU fringe event later in the day, Mr Benn said people needed to know whether GM produce was safe and whether its production had an impact on the environment.
“To know that we have to have trials,” he said. “I have approved the one trial that has come to me [from the University of Leeds] and it has just restarted after it was trashed by protestors the first time around.
“Only once we’ve had those trials can we have a mature debate about GMs.”
by Caroline Stocks (About this Author)