Letter: Genetic research

Sir: Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1963 to publicise, in the face of vociferous scientific opposition, the enormous environmental dangers of the indiscriminate use of DDT. Her life reinforces the concern about the indirect and long-term effects of genetically modified plants and food is rational and based on a century of experience of the fallibility of applied science and the short-termism of commercial morals (letters, 14, 15, 18, 19 August).

The research to develop these un-natural products is commercial research, usually carried out in great secrecy, and at immense costs, in a climate of feverish global competition.

There is no commercial motivation to delay production and use once a product is developed. Our society, coarsened by Thatcherism's morality of the market and indifferent to the wider needs of the community, now funds very little public research. Talk to any senior academic and they will go on at length about how their livelihood and promotion are dependent on finding commercially sponsored and directed research.

There is a great need to find ways of funding and directing independent research so that the public interest can be properly represented in these difficult arguments and to enable us and our legislators to make informed decisions on new technology. Perhaps what is needed is a contribution by large corporations, based pound for pound on their research budget, to a fund for such public research by universities and other unbiased institutions.

It is not enough to have a government watchdog, as proposed by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (report, 17 August). In these subjects, at the forefront of science, knowledge is all, and this can only come from research.

JOHN S L EDWARDS

Monmouth

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