Sense About Science report on GM aims to explode "Frankenstein food" myths

Charitable trust Sense About Science aims to explode myths of so-called "Frankenstein foods" with a fresh public debate on highly controversial genetic modification.

Scientists and agriculturalists including boffins at Norwich BioScience Institutes, which include John Innes Centre (JIC), wrote Making Sense of GM.

"We are launching a fresh public discussion," said JIC. "It puts GM back into the context of developing plant breeding and responds to questions and misconceptions.

"Publicly funded work, in particular, has struggled against misconceptions about Frankenstein foods, vandalism and a costly regulatory burden.

"There have been more Google searches on genetically modified crops in the past two years in the UK than anywhere else in the world.

"While there have been over a trillion GM meals consumed and nearly 120 million ha of GM crops grown, hardly any of that was in Europe, still less in the UK.

"It's not surprising that people have questions about why that is, what GM is, what it does, whether they are eating it and what would happen if they did."

In the report, Sense about Science examines the way GM has been debated in the past, and presents commentary from scientists, who insist a new perspective is needed.

It looks at limitations of older selective breeding techniques and advances in molecular breeding since 2000.

Issues raised include society's requirements for improvement in plants, ranging from the main commercial crops, where yields must increase to feed people.

It also focuses on the importance of assessing a new plant - GM or not - according to what growers need, where it is to be grown and its likely impact.

Professor Chris Lamb, a director at John Innes Centre, said "It feels as if we are being given a second chance to explain the potential of genetic modification.

"As a society we need to get it right this time. Genetic modification of crops is a safe technology. It has the potential to improve sustainability and help provide global food security."

Other contributors included BBSRC, Genetics Society, Institute of Biology, Institute of Food Research and the Lawes Agricultural Trust.



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