8.30pm Monday 14th June 1999
Prepared by Angela Ryan
Molecular Biologist, Open University
The Motion "This house would not continue to feed GM material to farm animals"
|Proposing the Motion||Opposing the Motion|
|Dr Arpad Pusztai, Biotech Scientist, formerly of the Rowett Inst.||Professor Derek Burke CBE, Former Chairman, Advisory Panel Novel Foods and Processes|
|John Ingham, Environment Correspondent,The Express||Harry Kershaw, MD AgrEvo UK Ltd|
|Norman Baker, MP||Dr Sandy Thomas, Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics|
The main chamber was full, the gallery was packed and the heat was on the opposing side to defend GM food.
The opposing side argued that: the risks of eating GM food are akin to being run over by a bus; that the process of GM in agriculture creates such minute changes to the DNA of plants that the introduction of a few new genes is actually insignificant; the media has dominated this debate and perverted it to the extreme with lots of misinformation enabling an out of hand dismissal of GM; it is going to feed the worlds growing population and it would be immoral to ban it; it will save vast sums of money for everybody including the consumer; it reduces the use of pesticides and is actually beneficial for the environment; people have been eating it in American for many years and nobody has died yet; the regulations are adequate.
The proposing speakers argued that: only one paper has been published to do with the safety of eating GM food; the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is less than 2% but this is enough to manifest huge differences; every newspaper in the country is covering the GM debate; people do not go hungry in the world because of lack of food - this is a socioeconomic problem; people want real food not cheaper food; GM crops have been shown to harm the environment and have serious consequences for biodiversity; people are being used as guinea-pigs in a GM feeding experiment with no controls; there is no way of knowing whether GM foods are having ill effects on human health- nobody is checking; the regulations are not adequate - there is a revolving door between the regulators and the biotechnology industry e.g. In the USA many known individuals have been employed by both at one time or another; in Britain, English Nature, RSPB, BMA and the governments chief scientific officers have all expressed concerns; GM is a primitive science that bears many unanswered questions and requires much more extensive research.
There was common ground between both sides: more research must be conducted and great care and caution must be applied at all times.
The motion was won
478 for : 207 against
Article first published 1999
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