Gen. modified food, Brit. docs say "ban" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From the Electronic Telegraph, the latest in the GM foods controversy:

ISSUE 1453 - Tuesday 18 May 1999

Doctors call for GM food ban to ease public fears, By Celia Hall, Medical Editor

LEADING doctors issued a demand today for an indefinite moratorium on the planting of genetically modified crops because of public concern and the lack of scientific evidence on their long-term safety.

A report from the British Medical Association says: "As we cannot yet know whether there are any serious risks to the environment or human health, the precautionary principle should apply." This is the first time that a leading medical organisation has commented on GM foods.

The BMA's tough recommendations include the call for a ban on the planting of crops resistant to antibiotics because of the possible implications for antibiotic resistance in humans. The report says it is "essential" that testing for potential allergic reactions to genetically modified foodstuffs should be improved.

"We felt strongly that there should be a cautious approach," said Prof Sir William Asscher, chairman of the BMA Board of Science, which produced the report. "Our first anxiety is that that there is no turning back once you have allowed something into the environment. If there is some adverse effect, that is it: it will be out there."

The report, The Impact of Genetic Modification on Agriculture Food and Health, says: "The BMA believes that the current public mistrust of science, expert opinion and agriculture, following the BSE crisis, cannot be underestimated. Scientists, farmers and politicians have much work to do to re-establish public trust."

The report says that the public must be better informed about testing sites for GM crops and calls for prominent displays of locations in local newspapers. It says that all food containing genetically modified material should be clearly labelled. This would help in maintaining a watch on health by making it easier to track any group of people that had suffered some adverse effect.

The statement concludes: "Nothing in life is free of risk. When something is judged to be 'safe', it merely falls within acceptable limits of risk." It calls for the "rigorous assessment" of any applications from companies to grow GM crops in trials and says that evidence from the United States of the environmental safety of such crops may not be applicable in Europe.

Monsanto, the biotechnology company that leads the field in the global development of GM crops and foods, rejected the BMA's assertion that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Tony Coombes, a spokesman for the company, said: "How much more regulation does the BMA want? GM crops and GM foods are the most highly regulated novel products available.

"The regulatory system in this country is being copied throughout the world. We disagree very strongly with the BMA's assertion that there is insufficient evidence to inform decisions on GM foods."

Campaigners said they were delighted by the BMA's statement. Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "It confirms precisely the points we have made throughout this debate. Extensive research needs to be done and no commercial licensing of GM crops can take place until this research has been completed. That will take at least five years."

Doug Parr, the director of Greenpeace, said the Prime Minister should now listen to the voice of British doctors and ban GM foods. "Tony Blair should do what the BMA says and stop this genetic experiment. This is the nation's doctors sensibly calling for a moratorium on further genetic experiments on the public at large."

-- Old Git (, May 18, 1999


Thanks for posting this Old Git. It's nice to know that the UK and Canada have professional and government people that aren't as money and power driven as they are here in the U. S. Our food and agriculture industry, with the aid of Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, etc., would sell petrified dog turds in this country and market them as granola, while smiling all the way to the bank.

-- gilda (, May 18, 1999.

That's it. I don't have room to worry about anything else. This GM food thing shows clear as a bell how money rules in this country. These big companies only care about profit. How do the rest of you manage all this information...between Y2k, school shootings, tonados, GM food, biological warfar, chemical warfare, nuclear warfare, Korea, Irag, Yugoslavia, China, Russia, who knows who else and what else. I am trying to do all the things I can to stay balanced. I live in a town where there are lots of people who practice Transcendental Meditation. Now the founder of this organization, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is saying we are on the brink. (I have never heard him speak like this before and I have listened to him on and off since the Beatles) So he is encouraging everyone here to meditate with a group together at a certain time. There are now about 1500 people who meditate together every morning and afternoon. The thought is that enough people settling down their minds and bodies to a calm state will have an influence. There have been some studies that indicate this. So it is worth a shot. Any other ideas? PRAY PRAY PRAY.

-- a mom (, May 18, 1999.

Gilda, I should have added that the British Medical Association is a pretty conservative bunch.

Mom, it seems the only way you can get action on something is to make people aware, then get a highly reputable group to take notice. For that you need an old-fasioned kind of press. There isn't much left of it in Britain, but enough to raise awareness about the dangers of genetically-modified food. Writing letters (not e-mail, which is ignored) to politicians, food producers/processors and newspapers is a good first step. You might also try writing to the producers of popular TV shows, suggest the subject as a plot for an episode.

I thought the subject particularly on topic because so many of us are storing soybean-based protein, and soybeans have the highest percentage of genetic modification in the US--about 80%, I think, high anyway. Any time you see "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" included in ingredients, that's soy. (Or soya, if you use British English.) GM crops also include grains, which many people are also storing. I guess we don't have much choice--buy GM crops or store a very unbalanced diet.

It was done very quietly, wasn't it? I guess we were all focused on Dolly the sheep.

This kind of attention to GM foods by the UK also helps explain why there is more open discussion of Y2K over there than the US.

For more info re GM food, see the site, where there are links.

For more info on the official government UK approach to Y2K, see:

-- Old Git (, May 18, 1999.

Although I am not well versed in the topic, I do know that about a decade ago, scientists concluded that the world's population was about to over-reach the potential for agricultural production using ordinary (hardware and chemical) technological improvements. A study concluded that the only alternative field for increased productivity was genetics.

Alterations in nature's basics can be beneficial. That is why one sees special hybrids that are hardier, heavier bearing and more disease resistant. So long as they do not threaten the basic natural material, this can be a good thing.

Personally, I don't find the "terminator" seed technology attractive or those seed with built-in resistance to certain pesticides or drugs. I believe there should be some limitations on technology that pose a threat to nature's basics and I believe that there should be a limit on what technology is allowed to be "copyrightable."

Organic crops are great, but they survive on the wings of higher prices paid by a niche market. Otherwise, they are not competitive in regard to their productivity with non-organic enterprise.

The real solution is most likely some sort of voluntary population reduction.

We cannot continue to develop ag land and make babies without increases in ag production. We have already exceeeded the carrying capacity of nature's basics. Without machinery, hybridization, pesticides, and fertilizers, we would be unable to feed current populations. If we don't like the "next steps," we better take care of the problem some other way.

I suggest that those who cry the loudest have a moral responsibility to support work on other alternatives to increased productivity or lower population that they find acceptable. It is not moral, IMHO, just to say "no" and leave the world's population to face increasing starvation. It is also not moral to "lock up" our own resources and pillage those of third world countries so we can boast smuggly about our own false environmental or agricultural "sustainability."

If the effects of y2k are prolonged and effect ag productivity, we will probably have a good look at what could await us in the future. In California, we already had a good look at the future with our last two unseasonable freezes. I was stunned at the cost of fruits and veggies. It used to be that I would buy nothing that was more than $.70 per pound.

-- marsh (, May 18, 1999.

Great thread.

I agree with 90% of what marsh says. But there are individual actions which have an effect on the whole issue.

You could stop eating at MacDonalds for a start. Thats minimal. If youre unsure of why, ask an Amazonian.

Becoming a vegetarian (or fishytarian) is also a positive move. Part of the reason why agriculture relies on so much biotech is the amount of farmable land laid over for the production of meat stocks. You all know the old fact about how many lbs of protein you can grow on an acre comparing wheat with meat. The ratio is about 1:130 I think. Anyway, thats another plus. And its easy to achieve too.

Being careful what you buy helps too. If your local supplier doesnt label correctly, buy elsewhere. Most of the superstores do. Organic costs a few cents more, but the foldback in lost revenue to the non- organic producers gets the point across. Its mass action a la the 1960's.

Just dont sit whining and pretend theres nothing you can do.

As to GM foods, its probably too late. The US soya industry has been hijacked, and normal wind-borne cross-pollenation means that most non- GM crop fields will sooner or later be contaminated with the GM genes.

Here in the UK, people I speak to are most annoyed about the fact that your (the US) soybean industry (together with Monsanto) conspired to blend GM and non-GM beans in together at source, making it impossible for retailers here to label products and offer choice. Its probably the same over there. Us little guys get screwed.

If you care deeply about the above facts; or about the fact that part of the GM alteration of soya includes a gene for antibiotic resistance which may enter the environment and make many diseases harder to treat; or about the fact that Monsanto (among others) have created their GM soya seed to be resistant to their (Monsanto's) own brand of weedkiller, so that they can use stronger and stronger doses of weedkiller, increasing yields, but in the process wiping out a huge amount of natural habitat and the wildlife that lives on it, then get together with like-minds and make yerself a pressure group.

Youre welcome


-- W0lv3r1n3 (, May 18, 1999.

I disagree with your statement regarding the use of rangeland as cropland. (At least as pertains to the US.)

From the brochure "Cattlemen: Stewards of an American Tradition," published by National Cattlemen's Association:

"64% of the continental U.S. is agricultural land and 2/3 of agricultural land is classified as grazing land. 92% of land classified as grazing land is not suitable for crops. If this land were not grazed by cattle, it would have no value as a food resource."

-- marsh (, May 20, 1999.

Come on marsh . .

what were you expecting the National Cattlemen's Association to say ?

"All that land we use for our cows to eat (and subsequently make holes in the ozone layer by farting copiously) would be better put to use growing agricultural products. Oh, and by the way, we advise you all to turn vegetarian immediately"

I have so many questions about the snippet you pasted that its hardly worth starting. It is however beautiful as an example of pure PR speak, giving as it does the veneer of an informed scientific factual basis whilst in fact saying very little which can be taken at face value as verifiable fact.

Incidentally, I'm not evangelising vegetarianism. You eat what you want to eat. I'm merely suggesting that meat eaters, having chosen their lifestyle, should be grown ups and accept the implications of that decision on the environment and the distribution of food around the world.

-- W0lv3r1n3 (, May 20, 1999.

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