Prince Charles

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Prince Charles Challenges British Government To Be Scientific Regarding Safety

Prince Charles has launched a scathing attack on genetically-modified products, and the UK Government has responded with annoyance and propaganda rather than science.

In an article in last week's Daily Mail, Prince Charles poses a series of questions about the safety of GM foods and attacked the lack of independent scientific research. And he rejects the hype that GM crops represent a solution to feeding the world's growing population as a case of "emotional blackmail".

Asserting that the argument sounded ``suspiciously like emotional blackmail,'' the prince said the countries that could be expected to benefit took a different view. Representatives of 20 African countries, including Ethiopia, had published a statement denying that gene technologies would help farmers to produce the food they needed.

``They think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems . . . and undermine our capacity to feed ourselves,'' said the prince.

Deep divisions emerged within the British Government following the Prince's challenge. Although the prime minister's spokesman refused to be drawn into a direct clash with the prince, it was clear there is considerable anger in Whitehall at the way he has reignited the debate in Britain on the issue. The prince's intervention has delivered a body blow to the government's attempts to reassure corporations that their people could be made to accept unproven genetically modified crops as safe.

Here are the ten important unanswered questions posed by the Prince:

1. Do we need GM food in this country?

The Prince: The benefits, such as there are seem to be limited to the people who own the technology and the people who farm on an industrialised scale.

2. Is GM food safe for us to eat?

The Prince: Only independent scientific research, over a long period, can provide the final answer.

3. Why are the final rules for approving GM foods so much less stringent than those for new medicines produced using the same technology?

The Prince: Before drugs are released on to the market they have to undergo the most rigorous testing...Surely it is equally important that [GM foods] will do us no harm.

4. How much do we really know about the environmental consequences of GM crops?

The Prince: Lab tests showing that pollen from GM maize in the United States caused damage to the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies provide the latest cause for concern. More alarmingly, this GM maize is not under test.

5. Is it sensible to plant test crops without strict regulations in place?

The Prince: Such crops are being planted in this country now - under a voluntary code of practice. But English Nature has argued that enforceable regulations should be in place first.

6. How will consumers be able to exercise genuine choice?

The Prince: Labelling schemes clearly have a role to play, but if conventional and organic crops are contaminated by GM crops, people who wish to avoid GM food products will be denied choice.

7. If something goes wrong with a GM crop, who will be held responsible?

The Prince: It is important that we know precisely who is going to be legally liable to pay for any damage - whether it be to human health, the environment or both.

8. Are GM crops really the only way to feed the world's growing population?

The Prince: This arguments sounds suspiciously like emotional blackmail to me.

9. What effect will GM crops have on the people of world's poorest countries?

The Prince: Where people are starving, lack of food is rarely the underlying cause. The need is to create sustainable livelihoods for everyone. Will GM crops really help or will they make the problems worse?

10. What sort of world do we want to live in?

The Prince: Are we going to allow the industrialisation of Life itself, redesigning the natural world for the sake of convenience? Or should we be adopting a gentler, more considered approach, seeking always to work with the grain of nature?

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