25 December 1998

GMroot crops need nod from consumer

GENETICALLY modified roots may appeal to growers but have little future without consumers go-ahead, warn representatives of the potato and sugar beet industries.

Holland has only recently managed to sell sugar from beet accidentally containing GM crops to the US, Clive Francis of British Sugar told delegates at the annual meeting of the Association of Applied Biologists in Cambridge.

"On the trialing front we need to be absolutely clear that everything is being carried out according to the regulations.

"The customer and consumer have to be uppermost in this GM debate," he added. "Until we have got them on board we will have difficulty in having a product to sell. Ideally, there needs to be a benefit for the end consumer or on the supermarket shelves."

David Walker of the British Potato Council recognised the potential benefits of GM technology in reducing pesticide use. "One of the most urgent considerations for us is PCN resistance.

"But for the average consumer balancing a budget the laudable ideals of reduced pesticide usage and environmental benefits come after the benefits for me [the consumer] now. The industry must deliver consumer benefits."

GM could help introduce the valued taste of old-fashioned varieties into modern types, he said.