13 April 1998
E coli warning on new crops gene
A Scottish consumer group has warned of a future epidemic of E coli poisoning worse than the outbreak that killed 20 people in Lanarkshire, if a resistance to antibiotics is brought on by eating genetically-modified (GM) foods.
The Scottish Consumers Association for Natural Foods (SCANF) issued the warning. It comes as Friends of the Earth revealed that 43 Scottish farms are growing GM crops, which they believe could spread untested genes to commercial farms and into the food chain.
SCANF says maize from the US containing an implanted antibiotic resistant gene is already entering the human food chain in Britain through imported products. The same gene could then infect anyone eating the food.
George Lyon, president of the National Farmers Union, said they concerned about the use of the antibiotic gene. He called for better labelling of products with the gene.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) say the gene is destroyed in cooking, but some scientists disagree.
There are currently 300 sites in Britain carrying out experiments using GM crops. But there is no commercial development, which will not be allowed until the European Union decides on the issue in the next year.