*Long-term GM monitoring urged
*Royal Society raises GM crop doubts
Long-term GM monitoring urged
Long-term monitoring of the environmental impact of genetically modified crops must be introduced if commercial planting goes ahead in the UK, Britain's leading academic body has said.The Royal Society called on the government to outline how it planned to monitor GM plants.
Vice-president Professor Patrick Bateson said: "If the decision is taken to allow commercial planting of GM crops, it is essential that regulators in both the UK and EU monitor the environmental impact to pick up any potentially beneficial or harmful effects over a long period.
"It will not be enough to make best estimates at the start and then assume that everything will turn out as expected."
The advice is included in the Royal Society's submissions to the government's GM Science Review, which is due to report in June.The Society said members of the review panel should also be given the chanceto properly consider the results of GM farm trials, expected to be published later this year.
Professor Bateson said: "These trials are the largest-scale field study of how particular types of GM crop affect wildlife, and the review panel should make recommendations to government in the light of this research."
The latest polls show only 14% of people in Britain approve of GM food, with many fearing long-term harm to human health and the environment.
The Royal Society recently said there was no evidence that eating GM food was any more harmful than eating non-GM food, and said the public may have been frightened by "unsubstantiated claims".
Professor Bateson said on Tuesday it was vital to make decisions about GM crops "based on the best scientific information".But green group Friends of the Earth said: "If the Royal Society has concerns about the potential environmental impacts of GM crops it should oppose their commercial development.
"Long-term monitoring will not prevent damage that has already been caused.
"Biotech companies must not be allowed to turn our countryside into one huge outdoor experiment."
EU still split
Meanwhile, the issue is still causing friction between Europe and the US, with the European Union currently banning most GM foods, and the US angered by the ban.US President George W Bush last week accused the EU of blocking GM crops because of "unfounded, unscientific fears".And EU farm ministers themselves are continuing to debate whether to allow the growing of GM crops alongside traditional produce.Some countries including Britain and Spain have argued that the issue should be left to individual states, while others are pushing for EU-wide rules.
Royal Society raises GM crop doubts
Friends of the Earth today urged the Royal Society to oppose the commercial development of GM crops after it accepted that this may result in "potentially harmful effects over a long period."
The Royal Society today (Tuesday) said that the Government should " introduce long-term monitoring of the ecological impact of GM crops if commercial planting goes ahead in the UK."Royal Society vice-president Professor Patrick Bateson said that:if the decision is taken to allow commercial planting of GM crops, it is essential that regulators in both the UK and EU monitor the environmental impact to pick up any potentially beneficial or harmful effects over a long period.It will not be enough to make best estimates at the start and then assume that everything will turn out as expected.
The scientific reports from the Government-sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations of GM herbicide tolerant crops will be published in the autumn.But these trials will not provide a comprehensive review of the impacts that GM crops have on wildlife and the environment.A report published by DEFRA in late 2002, indicated that "landscape-scale" trials would be needed over several years before the implications of cross-pollination from GM crops to non-GM crops and wild relatives could be fully understood.
Friends of the Earth has consistently highlighted the economic and environmental problems that may arise from full-scale commercial growing of GM crops.It is widely accepted that inter-crop cross-pollination will be inevitable.As a result Friends of the Earth launched its GM-free Britain  campaign in October 2002.
Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Pete Riley said:
If the Royal Society has concerns about the potential environmental impacts of GM crops it should oppose their commercial development.Long term monitoring will not prevent damage that has already been caused.Biotech companies must not be allowed to turn our countryside into one huge outdoor experiment."
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"But this is far more than a food fight. In a very real sense, it's the same struggle recently demonstrated in Iraq" - Dennis Avery in 'Biotechnology, Iraq and the Shape of Tomorrow's World', Center for Global Food Issues, May 23, 2003
"The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans." - USAID website
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