Right of Reply: Dan Verakis

Monsanto's Public Affairs Manager answers criticisms of genetically modified food
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The Independent Culture
THE DEBATE on the subject of biotechnology is now well under way. Monsanto welcomes this. We recognise that people have genuine concerns about genetically modified (GM) food and that they need more information.

At Monsanto, we believe that biotechnology offers a more sustainable way of growing food by reducing the amount of herbicide and pesticide used. These crops deliver direct benefit to farmers today and, in the future, will be able to deliver direct benefits to consumers.

In particular, these foods can improve levels of nutrition, with higher vitamin content, and help prevent disease. An example is high beta-carotene oil, which will combat night blindness.

One of the issues that is most often ignored in this debate is the rigorous type approval process which all GM foods must undergo.

To date, there have been 25,000 field trials on 60 different crops, conducted in 45 different countries, in consultation with hundreds of scientists from all over the world.

There are extensive tests to determine human impact, more than required for any other foods.

In the UK, up to six different government committees and three separate government departments are involved in approving GM foods. This process of approval may take up to three years and has been put in place to ensure that GM food can only be sold in this country after a tough and lengthy process of scientific checks.

The importance of the discussion about GM foods becomes increasingly significant as the world's population rapidly expands. By the year 2030, it may well have doubled, while the amount of land available for growing crops is likely to remain the same.

Biotechnology does not offer the only solution to feeding this massive increase in world population, but it can play a key role. When all the facts are known about the safety standards set for biotechnology food, consumers will share our view.