A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The moral need for GM crops.....

I have long-believed that the opposition to GM crops in the UK, and in the EU more generally, is not only seriously misguided, but also somewhat self-indulgent and morally bankrupt, particularly with respect to the developing world.

Now an outstanding report, 'The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries' (The Nuffield Council on Bioethics - the report will be made available on click very soon) has been issued that supports this position with vigour. Indeed, the report is so strong that even The Observer had to comment on it favourably:'Britain "has moral duty to fund GM research"' (The Observer, December 28). Here are two taster quotations:-

"The report dismisses the alleged ecological dangers of GM crops. There is not enough evidence to support the claim that they threaten 'actual or potential harm', it says. Instead, it criticises European nations for their obsession with pinpointing tiny traces of GM crops in our food chain."

"The Nuffield scientists also strongly criticise anti-GM campaigners who claim modified plants should not be developed because they pose a slight risk to human health. Such a view is impractical and harmful, they say."

I entirely support these comments, as well as the conclusions of the report, namely that: "Action is desperately needed. The Government, through the Department for International Development, and the European Commission should therefore fund 'a major expansion of public GM-related research into tropical and sub-tropical staple foods'."

How good to start off the New Year on a positive note and with the focus on the tropics, rather than on ourselves. I do hope that 2004 is the year in which we can put the doom-mongers and the gainsayers to flight and get on with our lives and genuine development. When the precautionary principle starts to mean only 'No', we must take urgent precautions against such a principle. It is, at heart, anti-evolutionary.

Philip, a fox rather than a panda. Time for that glass of claret (Chateau Reynard, 1995?).

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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