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Letters in Brief

Sir. In his witty analogy between the reactions of the opponents of modified food today and those contemplating the internal combustion engine 100 years ago, David Harvey (letter, 18 August) inadvertently makes the case for the sceptics.

Our forebears, while worrying about the dangers of a machine that explodes 10,000 times a minute, might not have foreseen that, in the hands of the impatient, careless and status conscious, the invention would eventually kill and maim tens of thousands of people every year across the planet, make a major contribution to climate change leading to raised sea levels, and inflict infections on countless others. My understanding is that it is precisely the long-term and unforeseeable effects of genetic engineering that worry the sceptics today.


Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester.

Senior Consultant, Iredale Development International Partnership

High Peak, Derbyshire

Sir: Mike Croll may well be right that a landmine ban is morally right but a waste of time (Review, 20 August). No doubt slaves felt that when slavery was banned. Banning slavery did not give them paid work or property immediately and it probably removed others' responsibility for their well being. Problems seldom have simple solutions. Give it time. In 50 years things might be different. At least there won't be more mines manufactured and laid. Just the old ones popping up and reminding us of the horrors of the past.