Letter: Food of the future

Sir: In the debate over genetically modified foods, it is truly shocking that even after tobacco, salmonella, BSE and the rest, our politicians and power brokers have yet to learn crucial lessons that should be obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of social science.

The public is not now going to heed political assurances that only "science" will decide what we are to be fed. After so many scandals, the public no longer believes science to be the incorruptible pursuit of objective knowledge. Still less does it believe that this or any government gives equal weight to the lobbying of powerful industrialists versus the public interest.

Solutions lie in the things this government talked about before it came to power, but from which it has rapidly backtracked since: a truly independent and credible food agency with comprehensive powers - not the emasculated body rich in industry lobbyists now being floated; the implementation of a precautionary principle that weighs public concerns ahead of vested interests; and, most importantly of all, an immediate moratorium on sales of GM products.

They may as well go ahead with such measures while there is still a chance to salvage some kudos - the battle for public sentiment on GM is lost already.

Dr NICK FIDDES

Department of Social Anthropology

University of Edinburgh

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