From the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday,. June 10, 2000:
School Road, Heacham.
E C Apling (EDP Letters, June 7) has, I believe, missed the point that Peter Melchett (5 June) was making. This was that scientists are inserting into our food crops genetic material which could never occur naturally.
It is just possible that unrelated species of bacteria may have had genetic material transferred by viral RNA without man's intervention but until now this has never happened in higher animals or plants.
I do think that genetic modification should be undertaken but only under strict laboratory conditions. Indeed there is no way this science could be suppressed now. The introduction of carrot genes into rice, enabling the rice plant to produce vitamin A and possibly removing the risk of blindness in third world countries reliant on rice as their staple diet, may well be a good thing.
The use of genetically modified bacteria to produce human insulin is probably also a good thing.
The introduction of pesticide-containing and herbicide-resistant food crops without years of careful laboratory testing is not good and is regrettably driven by the greed of agribiz companies not altruism.
The risk to organic farmers and the countryside of the crossover of herbicide resistance to wild plants should not be allowed to happen.
From the Eastern Daily Press, Wednesday, June 14, 2000:
I refer to E C Apling's letter ("Value of GM crop trials", EDP, June 7).
Mr Apling and other writers to the EDP who support GM technology continually make the same statements in their argument.
The first is that "genetic modification has been going on ever since life began on earth". At the same time he says that GM "is a revolutionary new technique!. These two statements are contradictory.
Plant mutation and plant breeding in nature, with and without the help of mankind, has been going on, but not genetic modification and this is what the whole subject is now about. It is the artificial insertion of genes into a plant which wouldn't occur on their own and this is a new and revolutionary technique.
The second argument they use is that this GM technology will feed the world. The world should be allowed to decide for itself what type of crops it grows to feed populations. They need help, but it is up to them to determine what they grow.
Here in the UK we are not feeding the world. In 1999 there were 465,584 hectares of set-aside, for which farmers were able to claim a certain sum per hectare.
The Government makes these payments to farmers in order to avoid the grain mountains of previous decades which were too expensive to store or to send overseas. So why are our farmers and Government being persuaded by the multi-national biotechnology corporations to grow their crops?
One of the benefits they say is "to get a higher yield!. At the same time the biodiversity of our remaining countryside is being endangered with trials which are too short-term and full of risk.
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