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GM Foods: What the readers think: Your letters

ARGUMENTS put forward by the big food producers claiming that GM crops will benefit the Third World by feeding the hungry are regarded with scepticism by many readers, whose letters display a growing cynicism.

Denys and Janet Goose, of Shrewsbury, write: "Although the firms concerned are driven primarily by the question of profit, they are presenting themselves as motivated in an altruistic attempt to alleviate world food shortage." Like many of our correspondents, the Gooses' concern for the Third World is matched by worry about their own diet. "The Government should stop saying that the public is already informed as to which foods are genetically altered. This is simply not true since about 60 per cent of processed foods such as some soups, `ready' meals etc use soya extracts which are already mixed at source by the addition of genetically altered material and are therefore unable to be labelled correctly."

Avoiding GM foods is a particular problem for vegetarians. Jenny Jones, of Tintern, near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, writes: "Vegetarians are having a tough time. Soya is a main ingredient and source of protein for vegetarians. Now, not only are `uncontaminated' supplies difficult to be sure of, but other vegetarian foods, which in themselves are not being genetically modified, are being prepared with GM soya-based flavourings."

Garfield Marcus Gabbard and Tracy Parker-Adlam, of Woking, Surrey, who have not eaten meat for more than 20 years, say: "We rely on basic food produce to sustain a relatively healthy diet. ... soya milk is one of our fundamental sources of nutrition and now we learn that only Plamil Soya milk is GM-free."

Mrs Robin Hildyard, of Scrayingham, near York, writes as a farmer who is worried about the impact on the environment. "GM foods may or may not be `safe' to eat - it is the huge damage it will do to every factor of life that is at stake and especially to bees. There are trial plots near me which will harm our bees and without bees there will be no fruit, no flowers, no vegetables."

Janet Turner, a beekeeper, of Totnes, Devon, asks: "How will I keep my bees away from the `poisonous' pollen?"

John Phipps, editor of Beekeepers Quarterly and a beekeeper, writes: "Could I have the same rights for my bees as the MPs have in their members' dining room - to feed on non-GM food? ... Do you not think that if GM crops (particularly oil seed rape - an important honey crop) were grown widespread through the UK, a GM label on honey and pollen would lead to these products becoming unsaleable? To most people `pure honey' and `contains food from a GM source' are exact opposites."

Pauline Marstraud, a biologist, of Tollesbury, Essex, has spent many years working as a member of official advisory committees on agriculture and food resources, and believes strongly that herbicide-resistant crops will lead, through cross-pollination, to strains of supercrops and weeds. "Production of crops resistant to herbicides or pests should be viewed with extreme caution, and not be accepted unless for production in greenhouses or other enclosed environments. The risk of producing pest-resistant and herbicide-resistant strains of either crops or weeds is enormous."

Ian Turner, of Yalding, Kent, found a succinct quotation which sums up the views of many of our readers. "Is it not the responsibility of the Government to promote one form of farming practice over another? The role of the Government is to regulate in order to protect consumers, conserve the environment, protect bio-diversity and animal welfare. It is for the organic movement to spread the message to conventional farmers and the public that organic farming inherently meets those objectives." Who said it? Jack Cunningham in November 1998.

l If you would like to voice your views on GM food, we will pass on your letters to the cabinet "enforcer", Jack Cunningham. Write to GM Campaign, Independent on Sunday, 1, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL.