1.Food industry perspective on developments in UK & NZ
2.Potrykus comes to town for "Hunger-busters or Frankenstein foods"?
3.Only 2% of public 'would eat GM food' - The Times
1.Food industry perspective on developments in UK & NZ
just-food.com editor's weekly highlights
Issue 187 - To advertise please contact Michael Nagle
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25th September 2003
Welcome to issue 187 of your weekly food industry newsletter.
A UK government-sponsored national debate on genetically modified crops and food has, unsurprisingly, found that many people still have reservations about the technology. The GM Nation? debate found that just 2% of participants were happy to eat GM food. What is perhaps of more interest is the finding that the better informed participants were about GM technology, the more sceptical they became.
Meanwhile a survey published in New Zealand suggests that the country risks damaging its 'clean, green image' if it allows the commercial release of genetically engineered crops and animals. The survey indicates that demand for its food products would be adversely affected by the release of GM crops and suggests a delay of several years while negative consumer attitudes in Europe subside. I'd suggest it might take longer than that.
http://just-food.com/nd.asp?art=55452 (New Zealand)
Looking to the US, an industry survey indicates that as many as 70% of food industry professionals have done nothing to prepare for the Bioterrorism Act. Some 50% even claimed ignorance of the fact that all domestic and most foreign food manufacturing and distribution facilities must register with the FDA by 12 December. Where HAVE they been?
2.Potrykus comes to town - Hunger-busters or Frankenstein foods?
Institute of Contemporary Arts (London):
Mon 13 Oct, 7pm
Hunger-busters or Frankenstein foods?
Despite crop trials, a major public consultation and numerous enquiries, advocates and detractors of GM crops share no common ground and there is a general loss of trust.
Could they help solve malnutrition?
Might they be detrimental to human health?
Is the rejection of GM a nostalgic longing for traditional farming methods?
What regulatory procedures might make the sceptics happy?
Is the fear really that of corporate power?
Should we call a halt until we know more?
Speakers: Colin Tudge, visiting research fellow at the Centre of Philosophy and the LSE, whose latest book is So Shall we Reap; Andrew Stirling, works on technology and risk at Sussex University, and is on the government's GM Science Review Panel; Paul Rylott, deputy chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council; and Ingo Potrykus, formerly professor at the Institute of Plant Sciences, Zurich, where he researched gene technology for developing countries, currently president of the international Humanitarian Golden Rice Board. In the chair: Shereen El Feki, science and business correspondent at The Economist.
GBP8, GBP7 concs., GBP6 ICA members
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Only 2% of public 'would eat GM food'
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
The Times, September 25, 2003
FOUR out of five people are opposed to genetically-modified crops and only 2 per cent would eat GM food, according to the first official test of public opinion.
Nine out of ten people expressed fears when questioned about specific risks such as the long-term effects of GM food on human health and contamination of conventional and organic farms.
This rejection was accompanied by a message to Tony Blair that most people had a "profound mistrust" of the Government and thought that secret decisions had been made to go ahead with commercial GM planting.
Malcolm Grant, who led the national debate, said yesterday that this feeling of mistrust was fuelled by arguments over the Iraq war and the political future of Michael Meacher, who was removed this year from his job as Environment Minister and who is sceptical about GM technology.
The same level of hostility was directed towards multinational companies that promoted GM technology and any groups funded by them. Professor Grant said: "People are keen to have some reliable, independent authority which could be trusted to establish the facts about GM crops."
He said that opponents of GM technology were neither "ignorant and Luddite" nor anti-science but motivated by a range of concerns. One was a religious belief that GM technology (especially trans-species GM) interferes with the Creation.
The rejection of the GM case has left the Government with a dilemma. Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, reaffirmed her commitment to listen to the public, but Whitehall sources concede that to halt GM approval would require a derogation from Brussels. The Government says that it is awaiting GM farm trials next month before making a final decision, which is expected early next year.
Politicians may be wary, however, of the public reaction, which was summed up in the report as "cautious, suspicious and outrightly hostile".
Biotechnology companies may also have to emphasise the social benefits of GM technology instead of making an economic case.
More than half of people said that they could not see any case for GM crops. The report, entitled GM Nation?, also said that the more people looked into GM issues, the greater their concerns became.
The force of the findings is that the views were not just from committed pro and anti-GM campaigners who went to public meetings or filled in questionnaires - there were some 37,000 questionnaires and between 600 and 700 public meetings. The findings were confirmed by 77 people who were selected randomly as representative of the general public, a grouping named "Narrow-But-Deep".
The panel was less dogmatic in its opposition to GM but wished the Government to delay a decision until there were more tests. They wanted regulation, benefits for society and "clear and trusted answers to unresolved questions about health and the environment".
GM supporters dismissed the findings and said that the debate had been hijacked by opponents of the technology. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council said that the results showed that more than 99.9 per cent of people were not interested enough to take part in the process.
Opponents said that the report was a warning to the Government. Pete Riley, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "The Government will ignore this report at its peril. There must not be any more weasel words from the Government on this issue. It must stand up to US and corporate lobbying, honour the findings of its own consultation and rule out the commercialisation of GM crops."
Women generally and people aged from 35 to 54 were most concerned about GM technology. Men generally and people in East Anglia, where there are many biotechnology companies, were less worried.
95 per cent were worried about the risk of contamination of non-GM crops
93 per cent said that they did not know enough about the long-term health effects of GM foods
93 per cent thought GM technology was driven more by profit than public interest
91 per cent were worried about the effects of GM crops on the environment
85 per cent thought GM crops would benefit producers, not the public
84 per cent thought that it was an unacceptable interference in nature
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