2 June 1995

Altered plants gain acceptance

PUBLIC concern about genetic engineering is fading, at least as far as plants are concerned. Many people now realise crop manipulation has been carried out for years by traditional breeding methods, and the distinction between the two is fading.

So says Richard Shepherd, of the Institute of Food Research in Reading. "The public now see herbicide resistance, pest resistance, and higher yields as important and beneficial." Risk is perceived as moderate. Fatty diets and pesticides are of more concern. "Genetic manipulation is no longer seen as extreme," says Dr Shepherd.

That is good news for farmers, says Rhône-Poulencs David Cole. "For a number of years people have been saying that genetically-modified crops would not be accepted. But that seems to be changing."