Meacher voices further GM fears (8/7/2003)

FARMERS WEEKLY interactive
Arable news
Source: FWi 07 July 2003
By Farmers Weekly staff

FORMER environment minister Michael Meacher has warned of serious health risks posed by genetically modified food.

Speaking in the Daily Mail, Mr Meacher says consumers face possible damage to their immune system and stomach from GM food.

The paper reports that Mr Meacher called for fundamental scientific research into long term health risks before the government gives approval to commercial GM crops.

"Mr Meacher urged the government to exercise caution and wait until the research - which could take up to 10 years - had been completed," the paper says.

It quotes Mr Meacher as saying: "There could be risk to the immune system.

"There could be risk to sexual development in young children or babies from GM-based soya infant feed.

"There have been no tests. That is an enormous gap and I think a scandalous omission in making the decision about whether or not these are safe to eat."

The Mail says Mr Meacher has become more vocal about GM since his sacking as environment minister last month.

Two GM reports are due to be released later this month after the national debate has finished.

They were meant to provide information for the public debates held since 3 June and the thousands who have filled in officials questionnaires on the issue.

The paper quotes a source close to the debate's steering body.

The source said: "It is ridiculous to promise a debate on GM and then deny the public the opportunity to examine and comment on key elements of the evidence.

"I am led to the conclusion that the government is not really interested in what the public thinks at all."

The paper also includes a book extract about GM alongside Mr Meacher comments.

As part of its Frankenstein Food Watch campaign, the paper publishes parts of Don't Worry (It's Safe to Eat) by Andrew Rowell.

The Mail's headline says the extract is about the "sinister" sacking of the world's leading GM expert - and the trail that leads to Tony Blair and the White House.

The expert is Arpad Pusztai who lost his job after questioning the safety of GM food.

"His interview on ITV's World in Action (in 1998) revealed his research suggesting rats fed GM potatoes suffered stunted growth and damage to their immune system.

"It triggered a controversy that put him on collision with the government, biotech industry and scientific establishment."

The article claims that the sacking of Dr Pusztai was the result of "manoeuvring at the highest political level".

And it questions the network of relationships between senior Labour figures and the biotech industry.

Within 48 hours of Dr Pusztai's interview he was suspended, after demanding tighter rules over GM food.

"Breaking his long silence over the affair, he now claims he was fired as a direct consequence of Tony Blair's intervention."

Two phone calls between his boss, Philip James and Number 10, were made.

The following day he was fired.

Dr Pusztai remains convinced he was punished for following his conscience.

He is quoted as saying: "I spoke out at a very sensitive time. Things were coming to a head with the GM debate and I just lit the fuse."

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