Letter: Genes and food

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Richard Dawkins blames the media for "whipping up ignorant hysteria" over genetically engineered foods. But the fact remains that genetic engineering poses potential threats that have yet to be fully explored.

For example, it is now known that non-plant genes that confer pesticide resistance in crop plants can escape into wild weeds, making them resistant too. What could be the environmental impact of a chemical and genetic "arms race" to control such superweeds? What will be the effects on wildlife?

What will be the findings of independent state-funded research into the risks of eating certain genetically-modified foods? Most of this research will not be completed until 2001.

The rush of genetic foods towards our shops and stomachs has little to do with solving pressing environmental and social issues and everything to do with the biotech firms raking in a return on multi-billion-dollar investments. Professor Dawkins may know all about the selfish gene, but he seems sadly ignorant about the selfish shareholder.

The only sensible course, proposed by Friends of the Earth and by the Government's own wildlife advisers, English Nature, is to impose a five- year moratorium on commercial development of these crops so that proper research may be completed.


Policy and Campaigns Director

Friends of the Earth

London N1