Great Britain is key nation in food biotechnology debate

In the ongoing debate over GM foods, Great Britain continues to be a key area. While the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair supports development of GM crops and the labeling policies of pro-GMO United States, Charles, the Prince of Wales, has denounced GM crops and many consumers, like those throughout Europe, remain skeptical about them.

Prince Charles recently launched his strongest attack on biotechnology companies and called for them to be made liable for any damage caused by contamination. The Prince said GM crops especially pose a direct threat to organic crops due to contamination. The Prince describes genetic engineering as "tampering with something very fundamental" and that it is an attempt "to redesign nature and re-engineer humanity in our image and not God's image."

A public debate on GM issues will start this autumn in Great Britain. The government's aim, according to Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett Beckett is to create a dialogue between all players in the GM debate. The dialogue will include three main components, including a public debate, a review of the scientific issues related to GM, and a study of the costs and benefits of GM crops. The debate was proposed by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission.

While field trials of GM crops are underway in Great Britain, a senior government scientist, Howard Dalton says more research is needed before GM crops can be widely commercialized in the nation. Dalton told the BBC that not enough is known about the environmental impact of GM crops. British protesters against GM crops have been known to be among the most vocal in Europe, and this continues. Protesters recently dumped sacks of GM crops outside a government building after tearing them up from 17 field trial sites across the country.

(Sources: Financial Times, AgBiotechNet, BBC, Europe Intelligence Wire)
(September 2002)