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New report is an ‘opportunity to put confusion behind us’ in the GM debate

By Nathan Gray+

22-Jan-2013

The publication of a new report on GM foods is an opportunity for industry, consumers, and policy makers to put aside the confusion of the past and ‘take a fresh look’ at the evidence for GM safety, according to EuropaBio and the ABC.

European biotechnology body EuropaBio has published a new report on GM crops and foods. The report, called ‘Science Not Fiction: Time to think again about GM’ calls for a rational, fact-based debate on crop technologies using scientific data and years of experience in the field.

“Highly complex new science can rarely be explained in a soundbite, and this can be frustrating to the public and scientists alike,” writes George Lyon, Member of European Parliament (MEP) in the reports foreword.  

“GM technology is a confusing topic that needs to be explained better,” said Lyon. “This guide aims to look at the reality of crop science, explode some of the myths around GM and recognise the growing support from high-profile development and sustainability organisations; from the WHO to the Gates Foundation.”

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, director of agricultural biotechnology at EuropaBio said it is ‘critical’ that industry, policy makers, scientists and campaigners work to engage with the public “to overcome any misunderstandings related to the technology.”

“We need to help people understand how they and the environment can benefit from including GM in the European farmer’s agricultural toolkit,” she said. “We share this responsibility with those food and feed companies whose products contain GM ingredients, and with national and European authorities who need to play a bigger role in public communications.”

Imaginary risk?

The document, which is found here, was welcomed by industry body the Agricultural Biotechnology Council(ABC), with Dr Julian Little, ABC chair reaffirming the science and safety of GM foods and crops.

“Over the past decade, anti-science campaigners have used scaremongering claims to try and dominate the coverage of advances in agricultural technology,” said Little.

“Scientists and farmers have been frustrated that the massive contribution to global agriculture of advances in biotechnology has been overshadowed by media stunts and unscientific claims about the supposed risks of GM crops,” he said. “In fact, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health.”

Du Marchie Sarvaas added: “The amazing thing is that people harbour fears about GM crops, but don’t know why they have these opinions.”

“By revisiting the origins of the debate we hope to enable people to review their perspectives in the light of what we know today.”

George Freeman UK Member of Parliament and chair of the All Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, warned that as the ‘environmental and economic benefits’ of genetically modified crops become clearer, “the alleged risks are increasingly seen to be imaginary.”

“It’s time for a fresh look at the mounting evidence that GM crop technology is safe and potentially transformational in helping the most vulnerable around the world to feed and fuel themselves,” said Freeman.

The report can be found by clicking here.

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