Letter: GM pollution peril

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The Independent Culture
Letter: GM pollution peril

Sir: Your leader of 21 May agrees with the Prime Minister that decisions about GM crops should be "based on science", stating that we might consider approval when "the balance of scientific opinion is that they are safe." This is misleading and dangerous: science and scientists are fallible and may have vested interests. There is no reason to exclude the lay public from

the debate.

I don't want decisions about the future of the environment to rest on whether a field study of monarch butterflies was properly peer-reviewed - there is far too much at stake. Changes in genotypes will potentially last tens or hundreds of millions of years, and production may be on hold for one! The risk evaluations being discussed publicly are woefully inadequate.

Even the more restricted topic of human health is unnerving. New drugs go through a three- or four-stage evaluation lasting between eight and 15 years and costing hundreds of millions of dollars; they are administered in small amounts; purity and other technical details are strictly regulated; and only a relatively small proportion of the population takes them. Yet not every new drug proves to be safe in the long term.

By contrast, GM products are not subject to the huge expense of clinical trials; they will potentially be consumed by the kilogram; they are not produced in highly regulated labs but in the field; and their manufacturers wish to capture substantially all of the country's food market.

Why put ourselves at such terrible risk when saner alternatives are readily available? I suspect the answer has more to do with lobby groups and the need for healthy profit margins than concern about all our futures.

STEVE HILL

London NW2

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