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GM crops scientist defends 'Frankenstein' food in a visit to Cambridge

Cambridge Evening News
Wednesday, June 6, 2001
pg 12

A LEADING pro-GM scientist visited Cambridge to discuss how breakthroughs in biotechnology could benefit the developing world.

Professor Channapatna Prakash met researchers from Cambridge University earlier this week at GM giant Monsanto's Trumpington site. The low-key conference saw Prof Prakash, director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama, argue that scientists must do more to ease consumer fears about genetic modification. Prof Prakash, who specialises in the development of high-yielding grain crops for Third World countries, said: "The development of genetically-modified grain has improved the lives of most people on the planet through enhanced and affordable food supply.

"This Green Revolution has boosted incomes for millions of farmers and reduced the incidence of famine and starvation despite massive population increases in the past few decades." He said consumer anxiety about genetic modification was "understandable" and scientists and GM companies must make a "concerted effort" to address public fears. Genetically-modified crops have been demonised as "Frankenstein" foods by some activists and the booming sales of organic goods in Britain reflects a deep mistrust of the new technology.

This reaction has disappointed Prof Prakash. He said: "Britain has been a cradle of scientific discovery so it is ironic that British consumers have so rapidly coddled green activist groups who use fears rather than science. "I sincerely hope that Britain will re-embrace its proud scientific past because, sadly, the most notable British export today is fear."

Ken Richard, co-ordinator of Cambridge Friends of the Earth, said: "We want a ban on commercial planting of GM crops until further tests are carried out. It is a complicated new technology and we cannot fully know what its effect on the environment will be. We believe reports of benefits to the Third World may have been exaggerated to manipulate the media."