Ban `freak' modified foods, say top chefs

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 100 chefs and food writers launched a campaign to oppose "freakish" genetically modified food yesterday. Antonio Carluccio, Antony Worrall Thompson, Fay Maschler and Annie Bell, food writer for The Independent, were among those who pledged to secure a ban on the release of all genetically modified (GM) organisms into the food chain.

The writers, who are backed by the environmental group Greenpeace, said they would not lend their names to any products including GM ingredients and would endorse restaurants that do not use GM food.

In a joint statement, they said: "As food professionals we object to the introduction of [GM] foods into the food chain. This is imposing a genetic experiment on the public, which could have unpredictable and irreversible adverse consequences. "

The launch of the campaign came after a report by a House of Lords committee last week, which concluded that the benefits of GM foods far outweighed the risks. The report said that the technology could bring benefits and help to feed the world.

But the author Joanna Blythman, who is spearheading the anti-GM campaign, said yesterday that it was not a precise science and the long-term effects were not known.

"People are fed up with technological tinkering and they want food they can trust," she said.

"You would have thought people would have learnt the dangers after the BSE crisis, but if this goes wrong it will make the fall-out from BSE look like child's play." She warned that GM food could endanger health and imperil the environment because the genes could escape from the crops through the release of seeds and create "superweeds", which would lead to ever-increasing use of herbicides.

"Once they are released into the environment there is no way to get them back," she said.

Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, said the food writers were reflecting public anger about the way food was produced.

In a recent Mori poll, 61 per cent of respondents said they would not be happy to eat genetically modified food.

"The public must be told about the GM ingredients that are already appearing in processed foods. People are eating GM food without knowing it," he said. A spokesman for Monsanto, the leading genetic food company, said GM foods were rigorously tested and strictly regulated.

"Monsanto has always wanted a debate about this but we are concerned to hear criticism that is without foundation. There is a strict regulatory process and the products are tested for allergies and other effects."

A spokesman for Asda said the supermarket chain had asked suppliers of its own-label brands to stop using GM ingredients, or, if that was not possible, clearly to label the products that contain them.

Hundreds of foods containing GM ingredients are already on supermarket shelves.

They include bread, biscuits, pasta and packet soups. The main GM ingredients are some types of soya, maize and tomatoes.