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Is it Finally Time to Embrace GM Crops?

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John Bingham, , Nov. 26, 2009
The mass consultation exercise, set to last a year, is being viewed by opponents of GM foods as a fresh push to persuade the British public to embrace the controversial technology.

It comes against a background of calls from scientists, politicians and business for a rethink. They argue that humanity must make use of new genetically modified crop strains to combat a future world food crisis linked to global warming, a growing population and water shortages.
But sceptics say that not enough is known to rule out environmental or health dangers from what some refer to as "Frankenstein foods". The last time the public were consulted on the issue, opposition to the new technology was strong but the FSA says that rising food prices and fears for future supplies mean it is time to re-examine the issue.

A focus group survey published by the FSA ahead of the national consultation exercise has already angered environmentalists by suggesting that opponents of GM foods are more motivated by "emotion" than "reasoned" argument.

At present only one variety of GM maize has been approved for cultivation inside the European Union, although crops grown outside, such as in the US, can be sold here if they are labelled. In Britain the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has given the go-ahead for a trial involving a new strain of potatoes but there are no plans to licence any more at present.

But is it now time to finally accept GM foods? Are sceptics just being alarmist or is there a genuine danger? Is it, an some manufacturers suggest, becoming impossible to keep GM ingredients out of the food chain?