Government 'underestimates the intelligence of the public' over GM foods

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A report from The Economic and Social Research Council claims that the Government has underestimated the intelligence of the public over its policies on GM foods.

A report from The Economic and Social Research Council claims that the Government has underestimated the intelligence of the public over its policies on GM foods.

The critical report from the government-funded body says that the public believes that the Government is biased in favour of GM foods, on the grounds that the biotechnology industry may boost the UK economy, and called on the Government to declare GM foods unsafe until further research has been done. The report also says that public resistance to GM foods is rational and should be heeded.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme Environment Minister Michael Meacher defended the Government's GM policy in the face of the report's criticisms.

'I certainly very strongly support openness, transparency, involving the public, bringing them into our confidence, telling them what we are doing, why we are doing it and asking them their opinion,' he said.

'But that of course is what we are trying to do: we have encouraged informal debate, we have increased the openness of the Government's advisory committee. 'The agendas, the minutes, the reports are all placed in the public domain.' Mr Meacher said the apparent gap between the Government and public's attitude towards GM technology 'partly reflects' the effect of food scares such as the BSE crisis.

'Understandably, I quite understand this, the public is sceptical.

'We do realise there are uncertainties, particularly about the effect of genetic modification on bio-diversity, on wildlife in the countryside.

'That is exactly why we have set up the farm scale evaluations, a four year programme to find out the facts and the truth.'

Nothing from those trials would be released into the human food chain until the Government was 'quite sure' about the effects of GM foods on humans and the countryside, Mr Meacher said.

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