Government launches bid to allay fears over GM food

PM hopes to gather enough evidence to prove genetically modified crops are safe

The Government has asked its top scientist to investigate the merits of genetically modified food in the hope that his verdict will allay public fears about so-called "Frankenstein foods".

Officially, Gordon Brown and his ministers remain neutral on the issue of GM because of public hostility, saying that they will be "guided by the science". But they have quietly ordered a major research project, which they hope will provide the launchpad for a campaign to persuade people that GM food is safe.

The study will be led by Professor John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Officer, and carried out by the Foresight Institute, a science and technology think-tank that looks into long-term issues for the Government.

The group's remit – how to feed a world population which could rise to nine billion by 2050 – makes no mention of the GM issue. But Jane Kennedy, the minister for Farming and the Environment, told The Independent yesterday that the group's work would include the potential for GM crops and food.

She said that she was "cautious" about allowing GM products in Britain, but added: "My own opinion is less important than what John Beddington might come up with. When the public are deeply concerned and hold strong views, they tend not to listen when ministers express a view. But they will listen to those who have the experience and knowledge to be able to offer solid advice."

Ms Kennedy said that she would welcome GM crop trials in Britain. None is currently taking place because all projects have been vandalised by opponents but the Government may fund an experiment at a "secure" location.

The minister said another reason why the issue had to be addressed was that animal feed, such as soya, was increasingly made using GM products. "The options for those countries which want to stay GM-free are reducing, therefore the price of non-GM animal feed is going up. If that trend continues, it means meat products in countries which choose not to use GM becoming more and more expensive. There are clear implications for the UK," she said. Britain is backing moves by the European Commission to relax EU rules on importing GM animal feed but a majority of member states remain cautious.

Several Cabinet ministers are convinced that GM technology will help to solve the world's food crisis. One said: "Gordon Brown wants a debate about the issue. But he wants it to be led by the scientists, not by politicians. We have now put the ball in the scientists' court."

Environmental groups accused the Government last night of trying to sneak in GM food, despite accepting the findings of a four-year international study involving 400 scientists last year which failed to give GM the green light.

Clare Oxborrow, the senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "[The Government] is obsessed with GM as a techno-fix solution to problems in food and farming which are much more complex."

The official remit for the Government's study says that"the project will look out to 2050 and take a global view of the food system [and]... how new science, policies and interventions could best address future challenges".

Also on the agenda will be the pressures on land used for non-food purposes such as biofuels.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star