Amongst all the recent debates regarding what we eat, one of the most heated and controversial has been that of genetically modified (GM) food.
Friends of the Earth are one of the most vociferous of campaigners against GM food. Adrian Bebbe is their GM foods spokesperson.
"There are two areas of concern, there is the health aspect of GM food and the growing of the crops and the effect that it has on the environment. We feel that there is so little knowledge about what we are actually doing in choosing genes at random that we don't know what the long term health implications are and even industry admits that it is a very new science and it is at early stages. We argue that we should know a little bit more before we actually start putting food on supermarket shelves."
Do you think that it is a case of profit before safety?
"Oh without a doubt. There's huge commercial pressure to approve GM food and get them on the market place because companies have spent sometimes decades and research budgets. That's not to say that all GM foods are dangerous and bad but what we have got to make sure is that we have a proper system in place that will pick up GM food if it was dangerous and we are not convinced that that would happen in today's times."
Professor Vivian Moses next spoke to me on behalf of Cropgen, an information service that makes the case for crop biotechnology.
"It's a technology which enables you to make progress in agriculture with new strains at a time when we are severely going to need help to deal with large numbers of people. As the population rises over the next fifty years there are going to be major problems finding food for them, and at the same time arable land is decreasing as people settle on it. As far as one can tell, and there have been extensive tests done, it does not do any harm to anything if it is properly kept in a controlled fashion. There is no evidence whatsoever that it has caused any harm."
Some have accused those in the no lobby of scare mongering, do you think this is the case or do you think that they have a valid point?
"I think that they are scare mongering and you can tell that because they don't respond to any evidence, as soon as you come up with an answer to their question they just jump to the next one. They are simply not interested in this issue, they are just using it as a, well you will have to ask them, I have my own views but you will have to ask them."
Finally I spoke to Clare Devereaux of Five Year Freeze, a coalition of organisations and businesses set up to promote more discussion on the subject.
"We are primarily calling for a moratorium on the growing or importing of GM foods, so we are not exactly taking a for or against stance on GM food. We are saying that there has not been enough research or public debate and that the corporate agenda is pushing the issues aside. If anything, though, we are against it in the sense that we are against the commercial adoption of it at this point without having more information so we are more in that camp at this moment."
Written by Martin Burrows
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