- LONDON - There's a new type of food that people around the world are
having a hard time swallowing -- genetically modified products.
- Such food is becoming more and more common
around the world. In Britain, so is the public outcry. There, memories
of mad cow disease are still fresh on people's minds, and the issue is
being described as another food crisis.
- To bio-technology companies, their ability
to genetically alter fruits and vegetables is the dawn of a brave new world.
It provides agriculture with the means to grow cheaper, healthier foods.
- Tomato plants, for instance, have been
modified to produce fruit that doesn't ripen too quickly. By inserting
genes from one plant into another, scientists can also improve a crop's
resistance to insects or weeds.
- "We believe that bio-technology
and genetically modified foods is an important component and an important
future," says Nigel Poole of Zeneca Food Sciences. "This is only
just the first 10 metres in a marathon race."
- Zeneca sell more than a half-million
tins of their genetically modified tomato paste every year -- and they're
not alone. Nearly 60 per cent of Britain's processed foods contain some
genetically modified ingredients.
- But environmental and consumer groups
are trying to turn back the tide of so-called GM foods.
- Their message is blunt -- altering the
genetic code of grains and vegetables is creating "Frankenstein foods"
that threaten human health and the environment.
- The groups are demanding more research
and a moratorium on growing modified crops.
- "We've asked (British Prime Minister)
Tony Blair to conduct a root-and-branch reform of the regulatory system
immediately," says Julie Sheperd of Britain's consumers association,
"and until that's done, not to allow new GM food products onto the
- Environmental activists recently ripped
up a field of genetically modified canola in the British countryside, saying
that even growing such plants for research could lead to contamination
of other farmers fields.
- The refrain of worry is being picked
up by retailers across the United Kingdom.
- A growing number of fast food outlets
and major supermarkets say they don't want genetically modified ingredients
in their products.
- Burger King and Domino's Pizza are the
latest to join the movement. And Iceland Frozen Foods is producing its
own line of products using unmodified Canadian soya flour.
- Iceland Foods' Bill Wadsworth says genetic
modification provides a scientific shortcut to food production, but the
alteration may be toxic -- now or in the future.
- "What we're concerned about is the
fact that ... nobody can tell us what the risk is," Wadsworth tells
- But some scientists say public fear over
genetically modified foods is getting way out of hand.
- "People seem to be ignoring the
real scientific basis of what is being done in respect of genetic modification.
And I think there's very little understanding of the true issues,"
plant physiologist Mike Black tells CBC News.
- Ultimately, the battle over genetically
modified ingredients will be won or lost in supermarkets, with consumer's
choices on the store shelves.
- The British government is about to bring
in new regulations for labelling, requiring anyone who sells food, whether
in a restaurant or in a supermarket, to warn customers if it contains
genetically modified ingredients. That way, it would be consumers who cast
the final vote on the future of GM food.