Food purists put genetics on menu

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The Independent Online
GASTRONOMES could soon spot a small spiral symbol on the top of their menus if a campaign to boycott genetically engineered foods takes off in Britain as it has in America.

The Pure Food Campaign takes its logo from the double helix of the DNA molecule. The helix has a slash through it, and the words 'We don't serve genetically engineered food'.

The British campaign, to be launched over the next few months, will eventually target fast- food outlets, growers, suppliers, grocers and consumers.

The four-month-old US campaign has been orchestrated by Jeremy Rifkin, America's most vocal critic of biotechnology. Mr Rifkin is a controversial figure, variously described as a Luddite and a visionary. He heads a non- profit organisation, the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC.

The foundation recently helped quash attempts to market bovine somato tropin, a drug that boosts milk production in cows.

Mr Rifkin objects to engineered food going on sale without pre- market testing for adverse reactions such as allergies.

'Our position is that you cannot know how that new gene is going to line up in its new host. Everybody has slight or serious allergenic responses - you can't test millions of people to find out what it is going to do. These food products are all novelties - you are starting from scratch,' he said yesterday at a London conference on animal genetics.

He also opposes the US government stance that genetically engineered foods need not be labelled. 'If we are labelling cosmetic changes to our food then we ought to label food that contains foreign genes. If you pluck a gene from a flounder fish and put it into a tomato to make it resistant to frost then people should know that is what they are eating.'

A second campaign is targeted at the McDonald's fast-food chain in an attempt to halve beef consumption. Campaigners plan to 'adopt-a-McDonald's'. They will give customers a second till receipt listing the environmental, human and animal health costs of the food they have bought as they leave the restaurants. (Photograph omitted)