MONITOR: PRINCE CHARLES AND GM FOOD

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The Independent Culture
Comment on an article by Prince Charles highlighting his concerns over genetically modified food

Daily Mail

INSTINCTIVELY WE are nervous about tampering with nature when we can't be sure of the consequences. Do we need GM food in this country? On the basis of what we have seen so far, we don't appear to need it at all. The benefits, such as there are, seem to be limited to the people who farm on an industrialised scale. We are constantly told that this technology may have huge benefits for the future. Well, perhaps. But we have all heard claims like that before and they don't always come true in the long run. (The Prince of Wales).

The Guardian

WHAT THE Prince has done is exploit his position. As we saw with his deeply unhelpful contribution to the debate on architecture, he has enormous influence. He won massive media attention this time, not because he is a working organic farmer, but because he is the future king. Very few unelected folk can rely on that much attention: royalty is unique in the amount of influence it commands. The contradiction is too great: a wholly undemocratic force using its disproportionate, unearned muscle to sway our democratic process. No, Prince Charles should keep his mouth shut - on this and every other issue.

The Times

THE CHOICE of subject, timing and outlet in this case carried with it the inevitable risk of embarrassment to the Prince or the Government. It is hardly the fault of the Prince of Wales that an opportunistic piece of repositioning by the Conservative Party has moved the entire GM debate from the pages of the New Scientist to Hansard. Nor should that shift have obliged the Prince to renounce views with which he has long been associated. The development did, however, run the risk of rendering the Prince's position partisan. No matter how carefully the Prince might have sought to measure his words he was not in any position to control the context in which they would be presented. The Daily Mail has not only conducted a vigorous campaign against GM food but deployed this as part of a wider critique of the Government. Such headlines as "Prince's attack leaves Blair facing a credibility crisis" were inevitable.

The Daily Telegraph

THE PRINCE of Wales has developed his arguments against genetically modified organisms. Some of them are uncontentious. Others are disputable. The Prince has a valuable contribution to make on these matters, just as he has to discussion about, say, the teaching of Shakespeare in schools, and he asks a question that is very near the heart of the GM debate: how much do we really know about the consequences of GMOs?

Financial Times

THE PRINCE of Wales may, of course, say what he pleases, consistent with the dignity and restraints of his position. But his decision to throw himself into the debate in the Daily Mail raises a question. As a report from the Nuffield Foundation pointed out last week, the debate on genetically modified foods has been disfigured by hysteria and inaccuracies. Responsible people must therefore be careful to observe the "ethics of public discussion". Against this criterion, the Prince scores only a beta minus. Certainly he raises the right questions, but the tone is needlessly polemical, playing on fears.

The express

ONCE WE have bankrupted the traditional farmer, what will be left? Giant agri-industrial fields of GM plants and acres of rape? Prince Charles has described small family farmers as "the backbone of what is left of our rural culture" and says their loss would be a national tragedy. This Government should stop grovelling to the genetically modified food industry and help our small farmers instead.

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