GM foods campaign; our readers write

Give us the facts and we'll decide

AS A consumer, given that GM foodstuffs are already on the market, I would press for easy identification. Few shoppers have the time or the inclination to read avidly the small print on the back of tins. There are alternatives:

The labels on the containers of GM foods could be coloured differently; or they could show a prominent "GM" sign on the front of the label; or (and in my view preferably) they could be stacked separately on shelves which are clearly marked "GM Foodstuffs".

This would give consumers a sporting chance of buying ethically, if that is what they want. It would also give retailers reasonably accurate information about their customers' preferences and priorities. If the major supermarkets could be persuaded by such information that their customers preferred natural, unmodified goods then we would be a long way towards winning the battle.

LESLEY BROWNE

London, SW1

ALTHOUGH NOT strictly vegetarian, I eat a lot of "vegetarian" food. I will not knowingly buy food which has been genetically modified. In reality, this has meant buying nothing containing soya which has not been clearly marked as being free from GM.

I do not wish to eat GM foods, and am particularly concerned about such products being fed to animals in the food chain, and even more, about the effects of GM crops upon the environment. Assurances of safety are patently ridiculous - effects cannot possibly be predicted.

P M NOBLE

London E11

I AM rarely moved to campaign. However, on GM food I am extremely concerned. I am able to protect my family from beef and beef produce because it is labelled. I demand the choice to be able to protect my family from GM food.

M BURNETT

Purley, Surrey

THE HUMAN food chain is being hijacked by big corporations for their own ends. We deplore this. We are also very unhappy with the way the Government is putting the interests and wishes of these companies above those of the British people.

We are concerned about the inherent unpredictability of GM crops with possible danger to both humans and animals; the spread of unwanted and possibly harmful genes into weeds, wild species and organic food; the impossibility of enforcing and policing the labelling of foods containing GM ingredients; and the effect on developing nations, where there are already food shortages through Western greed.

DR M ANTONIOU

and J ANTONIOU

Edgware, Middlesex

GM FOODS are the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. Nature is a beautifully organised and complex system that can never be fully understood or predicted. Like similar complex systems such as the weather or the behaviour of the economy it is beyond prediction.

Unfortunately, this is not another topical issue that will eventually fade from public concern. It is a battle which must be continuously fought, for this technology isn't going to go away, no matter how much we wish it would.

KEITH RICHARDSON

East Berkshire Green Party

Slough, Berks

THIS PROCESS should be discontinued immediately and completely banned until further testing for safety of the consumer is carried out and until confidence can be expressed by all informed and disinterested bodies that the broader implications for the ecology of our planet are fully understood, and that all anticipatible consequences have been identified and deemed acceptable.

M J RUSSELL

Crief, Perthshire

THE BELIEF that Genetic Modification can provide a solution to the problem of world hunger is a fallacy. Increasing the yield of cash crops does not provide the producers of the food with more to eat; poor people cannot eat food that is exported. Rich landowners and those who control the technology will be the ones to prosper. GM will concentrate the wealth, and the gene pool, in the hands of the few. Technology in isolation cannot be the answer to problems that are fundamentally economical and ethical in their composition.

GARETH SIMPSON

West Bridgeford, Notts

AS SOMEONE involved in plant gene transfer since the early 1980s, I find your latest campaign is based on unsound arguments. Genetic modification receives a great deal of unsubstantiated and misrepresented publicity, and I am disappointed that your otherwise excellent paper seems keen to take a lead in this.

A much more positive reaction from your paper would be an in-depth review of the whole area of genetic modification, not merely the opinions of some badly informed people. Though the science of creating transgenic plants is new, the precision and scope of the science is increasing quickly, with the elimination of some of the previously cited problems, such as antibiotic resistance genes.

I am not advocating an all-out acceptance of genetic modification; however, in many cases the benefits far outweigh the risks involved. Instead of "Stop GM Foods", stop misrepresenting the scientific facts.

Dr STEVE MILLAM

Dundee

I STRONGLY feel that GM food should be stopped. Will we have no choice in how we live our lives? Will the big food corporations run the world?

SANDRA BROWN

Consett, Co Durham

I FARM 450 acres of mediocre arable land in South Yorkshire. I wholeheartedly agree with you that GM crops should be banned, stopped and thrown out. I farm in a conventional system using agrochemicals as sparingly as possible. There is no way I could be described as a vegetarian yoghurt knitter but I do object to being a conduit for taxpayers' money being delivered to Monsanto to develop systems that are dangerous, untested and unwanted. Think of rabbits in Australia, grey squirrels in Britain and the numerous other incidents of humans tampering with nature. Let these be a lesson to all.

T G ELMHIRST

Barnsley, S Yorks

GENETIC ENGINEERING could be extremely dangerous, and all shops and supermarkets ought to indicate which foods contain genetically modified ingredients. This would enable customers who do not agree with genetic engineering to avoid them.

FRANCES J JONES

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

ALTHOUGH A moratorium is better than nothing, for nature's sake a total ban is the only acceptable outcome of this debate. A freeze of three years is not long enough to determine what adverse effects GM foods will have on us. Organic farming is the only way forward.

M M H HOGESTIJN

Radnage, Bucks

I FIND it interesting that companies like Monsanto are acting like farmers and treating consumers like domesticated animals. We're to be fed according to their requirements, and they will harvest the profits.

Give us the names of the products Monsanto and the other GM companies produce. We may not be able to stop the introduction of GM foods, but we could initiate a consumer boycott of all their other products so they learn not to hold consumers in such contempt.

K M MURPHY

Sittingbourne, Kent

I DO not wish to see the end of composting because of rot-proof tomatoes.

MICHAEL R MARTIN

Weymouth, Dorset

MY FEELINGS of abhorrence and disgust with both the Government and the food industry, that they should try to inflict their decisions without a forum after the BSE crisis, cannot be overstated. Unless food is properly labelled, the Government and industry will be force feeding the population on food that they may have very great concerns about. Food must remain a matter of choice determined by knowledge.

T WILCOX

London NW10

FIRSTLY, I fail to see how your political correspondent can describe a written Parliamentary Answer published in Hansard of 3 February, col. 691/2, as a "confidential briefing note from civil servants seen by The Independent". Secondly, at no time has the Government given its approval to Monsanto cotton for animal feed. Thirdly, MAFF has not yet completed the setting up of the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs. The Chairman will be appointed before Easter.

JEFF ROOKER MP, London SW1

keep up the pressure

Are you worried about GM foods and think they should be stopped? Send us your letters and we will pass on your protests to Cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham. Please also send us details of any foodstuffs which you have discovered contain GM products.

Write to: GM Campaign, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL.

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