11 February 2000
US court could ban gene crops

By FWi staff

GENETICALLY modified crops may no longer be developed if an American court decides that the US Food and Drug Administration ignored warnings about their safety.

US lawyer Steven Druker, who has launched a case against the FDA, said it disregarded advice from scientists that GM crops should be treated with more caution than other products.

Mr Druker, of the Alliance of BioIntegrity, says scientists could not argue on the safety of tests on rats and that claims that safety issues had been resolved were false.

Therefore, Mr Druker claims, GM crops are both illegal and a possible danger to health.

Biotech companies and authorities argue human feeding trials are unnecessary because GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to natural products.

Mr Druker said the evidence is now being considered by a judge and there could soon be a decision with widespread ramifications.

“If it does come down fairly squarely with our position, and holding that these foods are on the market illegally, that would I think pretty much stop the development of GM food,” Mr Druker told the Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

He said he would “not shed too many tears” if this happened.

On the same programme US organic farmer Jim Goodman said American farmers had been misled by biotechnology companies into embracing GM technology.

Mr Goodman, who is on a tour of members of the National Family Farming Coalition (NFFC) organised by Greenpeace, said promises of increased yields had not happened.

Insisting he was not anti-GM, Mr Goodman called on UK farmers to ensure they got satisfactory answers to questions about the safety of the technology.

Meanwhile, environment minister Michael Meacher has been told by a senior adviser to the Norwegian government that there are potential risks from GM technology.

Professor Terje Traavik fears they could cause new viruses, bacteria that causes diseases and spreads drug and antibiotic resistance, mutations and even cancers.

In a private briefing Prof Traavik told Mr Meacher that a ban was the only solution.

He said: “There is a desperate need to get us out of this mess and to have publicly funded holistic healthy research. What may take us out of our miserable position is to ban first generation genetically modified organisms.”