A recent UK conference which questioned the future of GMO foods in the UK has returned a resounding 90 per cent of its attendees voting against it.
Chaired by political journalist Sue McGregor, the debate was sponsored by Yeo Valley Organic and the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo) and held at the Lakewood Conference Centre, Somerset. It was attended by around 150 local people including farmers, politicians, doctors, vets and members of the public.
The argument in favour of GM food was presented by Professor Vivian Moses, co-ordinator of a EU, GM education programme, and Tony Combes, public affairs director of Monsanto, the world's largest producer of GM seeds.
Speaking against the farming of GM crops were Peter Melchett, policy director of The Soil Association and Nathan Argent, of Greenpeace.
In his presentation to try and convince the audience that the adoption of GM technology would be beneficial, Professor Moses explained that virtually every world safety authority has endorsed the 8 seeds approved for use in the UK and he explained that use of GM seeds worldwide was increasing by 10-20 per cent annually.
He commented: "GM is already out there. The real issue now is how do we accommodate different systems of agriculture in the same land area?"
In a question and answer session, John Penrose, a local MP, who is a keen bee keeper, asked him how it would be possible to ensure that honey that is currently organic remains uncontaminated by pollen from genetically modified plants, if approval is given for GM cultivation.
Professor Moses commented: "I think we have to acknowledge that segregation isn't possible. There will still be a choice, it just won't be the same as it used to be."
Speaking against the planting of GM seeds, Peter Melchett said: "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge, uncontrolled experiment. Their outcome is unpredictable. There is huge uncertainty not just in the process, but in the impact it might have on you, your children and the environment. It would be stupid to go ahead."
According to the sponsors this view was supported by many in the audience, including GP, Dr Richard Lawson, who stated: "It took 20,000 papers to establish smoking causes lung cancer. If GM planting is allowed and we don't get GM labelling as well, we won't know who has eaten it and who hasn't, so we won't have a control group of people if it transpires something does go wrong."
A vote by the audience, to show how many were for and how many were against GM foods was strongly against, with more than 90 per cent of the attendees saying they don't want to have GM food planted in Britain. This reflects the results of a poll that has been running on the Yeo Valley organic web site, where around 93 per cent of visitors have voted 'No'
Yeo Valley dairy products are all of organic origin, which follows that many of its customers would not be likely to consume GMO food products.
The results of both polls and a summary of the debate are now being sent to the UK Government in advance of its forthcoming deliberations on whether to allow further planting of genetically modified seeds in the UK.