Tests on food safety are 'subjective and unclear'

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The Independent Online

Safety tests for genetically modified (GM) food are subjective and rely on poor arguments, the Royal Society warned yesterday.

Safety tests for genetically modified (GM) food are subjective and rely on poor arguments, the Royal Society warned yesterday.

The society, Britain's most distinguished scientific body, said increased allergies and unwitting changes to the nutritional content of food, especially for babies, might be two of the dangers not being adequately addressed.

The Royal Society said that although it had found no evidence that GM crops were a danger to the public, it had identified potentially serious problems with the way safety was assessed. "In particular, it has been argued that the approach is subjective and inconsistent and even that it represents 'pseudo-science'," a report by a Royal Society working group on the health implications of eating GM plants said.

Opponents of GM foods have argued that products should be treated in the same way as new drugs, with extensive testing and human trials before they are allowed on the market. However, the Royal Society said it preferred a refined version of the existing system, in which a new GM product is compared to the non-GM version to see whether there is any difference.

But the working group found the criteria for establishing difference were unclear. "There was no consensus on the tests that needed to be carried out," said Professor Jim Smith of the Wellcome/CRC Institute in Cambridge, who chaired the working party.

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