13 November 1998

GM debate becoming more tricky

CONVINCING non-scientists of the benefits of using genetically modified crops in agriculture is getting harder, according to outgoing IACR director, Ben Miflin.

GM technology represents a huge opportunity, Prof Miflin told an ARIA meeting at Rothamsted last week. "We are trying hard to explain them to the public, but it seems an increasingly uphill battle. There are people out there just not interested in debate."

He pointed to the destruction of GM crops and highlighted the apparent groundswell of support for organic production.

Prof Miflin claimed the Office of Science and Technology and the DTI failed to recognise agriculture as an important industry, and said bad publicity had hit MAFF hard. That left the public fearful of intensive agriculture and new GM technology.

The latter in particular could be extremely beneficial for the environment, productivity and the public, but it was a hard task persuading doubters.

Meeting chairman and Norfolk farmer Frank Oldfield felt there was a distinct danger the battle would be lost in the UK. &#42