Universe dated August 9, 1998
There was uproar in the House of Commons this week when officials
decided that MPs would not be served genetically-modified foods in the
House's bars and restaurants.
environmentalists were quick to accuse the Government of gross hypocrisy
in forcing controversial foodstuffs on to the public whilst ensuring
they are protected from them.
Elsewhere, protesters were being
arrested for damaging a modified maize field, while Environment
Secretary Michael Meacher rejected demands for a ban on the new crops,
despite concerns that it was damaging the life cycle of insects.
Accused of playing Russian roulette with the countryside, and putting
public health at risk, the Government responded in familiar fashion.
New Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson donned a white coat to visit a
new £65 million Biomedical Sciences Building in London, dubbed 'the
laboratory of the future'.
The new minister was quick to confirm
that he would be happy to eat genetically-modified food.
"Genetically-modified or not, I think high-quality, nutritious food is,
as a general proposal, good for people," proclaimed Mr. Mandelson.
His assumption, he said, was that if such food appeared on a plate: "I
have to assume that it had passed the required food safety tests and met
acceptance of those who know more about these matters than I do."
Understandably, few people were reassured; most of us still have vivid
memories of similar assurances about salmonella in eggs, and recall
politicians feeding beefburgers to their children in the very midst of
the BSE crisis.
We are all becoming increasingly paranoid about
the food we are eating, and can you blame us?
It's bad enough
that the Western world has far more of it than it can consume but we are
now in real danger of destroying ourselves with the relentless pursuit
of consumer choice.
More worrying is the insistence from those
who should know far better that everything must be all right until some
expert can positively prove that it isn't.
We went that way with
BSE, but persisting with genetic modification until someone says it's
going wrong could provoke a crisis that will be a whole lot harder to
Reproduced with thanks.
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