Expert raises new GM crop fears

06 September 1999

Expert raises new GM crop fears

By FWi staff

A LEADING food scientist has warned that inadequate safety tests on genetically-modified (GM) food could lead to hazardous chemicals entering the food chain.

Andrew Chesson, who works for Aberdeens Rowett Institute, called for more stringent and wide-ranging analytical techniques are needed for GM crops.

His remarks, are reported on the front of the Financial Times and likely to play a significant part in the GM debate, according to the paper.

Dr Chesson, is also a member of the European Unions GM and animal nutrition committee, and said new tests were needed to cope with the increase in GM crops.

He is particularly concerned about the ability of the existing regulatory systems to cope with the next generation of GM foods.

Modifying a plant may cause unexpected changes to the plants metabolism leading to the production of potentially dangerous chemicals, Dr Chesson fears.

But his intervention appears to put him at odds with most of Britains scientific establishment.

It comes on the same day that Chris Pollock, chairman of the GM Farm-Scale Evaluation Steering Committee, has a letter in The Independent.

Prof Pollock, whose committee is currently overseeing GM trials in the UK, defends the science on which the farm-scale trials are founded.

Meanwhile, the European Union is scaling back its research into genetically-modified (GM) plants, according to The Times.

Just two GM projects out of 55 submitted for long term agricultural studies which have been included in Europes fifth Framework programme.

Some 44 projects were backed in the fourth programme four years ago.

The new framework programme has been drawn up with priorities on research into health, environment and sustainable agriculture.

The Times says the reduction in research will be seen as a blow to GM research.

Scientists had been convinced that plant biotechnology would still enjoy meaningful levels of funding under a special area called Cell Factory.

They had argued that research was crucial if the promise of a European industry developing bumper yielding crops was to be delivered.

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