GM industry turns on its latest critics

THE US biotechnology industry struck back yesterday against "celebrity" critics, including the Prince of Wales and Hollywood stars, for their vocal opposition to genetically modified crops and other advances, saying that they "just don't know enough about the issues they use their star power to highlight".

Speaking in Washington, Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organisation, which lobbies on behalf of almost 1,000 companies and research centres worldwide, defended the industry's record, especially in medical research, and said that it was inconsistent to embrace the medical benefits while denouncing parallel developments in agriculture.

Mr Feldbaum insisted that the industry was phlegmatic about measures announced this week by the US Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, to monitor the safety of GM crops because he was confident that the products were safe. Mr Glickman had announced his intention to launch an independent scientific review of official procedures for approving biotechnlogy products and set up a series of regional projects for the long-term monitoring of GM crop developments.

The measures, which included a pledge to consider European demands for labelling of food made with GM crops, were seen as the first US concessions to European worries about genetic modification of food and an indication that European consumer fears were spreading to the US.

Announcing the additional precautions on Tuesday, Mr Glickman had hedged his remarks with multiple expressions of confidence in the safety of GM techniques, but also mentioned for the first time the need to "stay on top of any unforseen adverse effects after initial market approval", the first nod by the administration to the possibility that the scientific evidence might be incomplete.

That a powerful lobby group like the Biotechnology Industry Organisation should have chosen to speak out so soon after Mr Glickman's announcement indicated that the unresolved trans-Atlantic dispute over GM products is in danger of flaring up in the US, pitting powerful corporate interests not just against consumer worries, but potentially also against farmers. US agriculture, already demanding government subsidies to help offset depressed crop prices, sees the world market for their produce shrinking as a result of the European ban on GM imports, and fears that it could shrink still further.

Alluding to their dilemma this week, Mr Glickman warned the biotechnology companies: "What we cannot do is take consumers for granted ... a sort of if-you-grow-it-they-will-come mentality." The risk was that fearful consumers would not come, and that farmers would be left with unsaleable crops.

According to the US agriculture department, 44 per cent of soybeans and 36 per cent of maize in the US are grown from GM seed, only a few varieties of which have been cleared for sale in Europe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor