GMO test reliability raises safety doubt

10 January 1997

GMO test reliability raises safety doubt

FEARS over the reliability of US testing of genetically modified organisms have been raised after a leading North American academic claimed scientists had missed the antibiotic-resistant marker gene in GM maize.

Dr Margaret Mellon, director of agriculture and biotechnology of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Soil Association conference that the US Food and Drug Administration and other advisory committees had cleared the GM production without knowing about the marker gene.

Dr Mellon accused of FDA of failing to document their research into GM maize, adding that it had recently called for more evidence from nine experts into the possible ramifications of antibiotic-resistant marker genes.

Although the European Commission has now cleared GM maize, British and European scientists were deeply concerned about fears over the transfer of drug resistance to livestock and humans.

Dr Mellon said it was time world governments looked at the potential risks of genetic engineering, claiming there could be a number of long-term environmental side-effects.

These include the danger of genes transferring to wild or weed relatives, a change in herbicide application patterns, the squandering of valuable natural resistant genes and the possible poisoning of wildlife.

Cohesive policy

The United Kingdom Register of Organic Farmers has stressed it will not use GM products. And it claims to have had little support from MAFF in its attempt to have a cohesive organic GM organism policy across Europe.

Francis Blake, Soil Association deputy director, said GMOs were not acceptable and had no place in organic farming. "MAFFs position is to support GMOs and with the US threat of legal action if anyone introduces a GMO-free label, the UK message has unfortunately become somewhat blurred."n

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