j sharp wits - sharper, anyway, than 1 those of Blair’s leaden spokesman

want to say anything about this.’

Genetic food battles the seeds of doubt

With scientists at loggerheads on both sides of the genetic food debate, what are the public to believe? More importantly, what should they eat? Words Stephen Naysmith

IN THE WAR of words over food produced using gene manipulation there is little love lost between the Sides.

Environmentalists and natural food campaigners claim biotechnologists are playing God to produce ’supercrops', solely for the benent of multinational food companies.

Meanwhile, the researchers aCCuse protesters of sCientific ignorance and scaremongering, pOinting to minimal risks and huge benefits

However, Michael Antonio doesn’t fall eaSily into either camp A microbiology researcher With a major London teaching hospital, Antonio is an Opponent who fully understands the technology

At a recent conference in Scotland, he argued it was JllSI as outrageous as the idea of cloning humans, recently the subject of feverish debate. 'The technology is actually quite crude and impreCise. We are bringing about combinations of genetic material that w0uld never occur naturally.’

Genetically modified (GM) food is created when genetic material from other sources is introduced into crops such as tomatoes, sOya or maize to persuade them to develop new traits such as higher yields or resistance to pestiCides.

Antonio argues that the technique can produce utterly unexpected results in the chemistry of the plants 'We are introducmg hundreds of new proteins which no one has ever eaten before. There

are the possibilities of creating new pOisons or

'We are introducing hundreds of new proteins which no one has ever eaten before. There are the possibilities of creating new poisons or sparking new allergies.’ Michael Antonio

SHOULD TONY BLAIR fail to land a new job on 1 May, he might find a role in comics. Sci-fi mag 2000AD has concocted a one-off cartoon strip entitled B.L.A.I.R.1 in which Tone gets strapped up with Bio- Enhancement Line-up via Artificial Intelligence Relays. This function gives him the strength of 50 men and a computer in his head called Doctor Spin (ha ha). It also confers

A MONKEY WITHOUT nuts is like Fred without Ginger etc . . maybe explains why Nobby the castrated chimp has gone to pot. Owners Erica and Jim Windsor went ape-shit when film of their pet Nobby sucking on a bong was developed at a well-known High Street chemists. The Windsors now fear a court order will separate them from the stoned primate. 'At the end of the day, what's a bit of Everybody countered a miffed Jim before forgetting what he was talking about and wandering off in search of biscuits.


who commented: ’We don't really

WHAT'S IN A name? Quite a lot if it happens to be Random Switch Randy to his mates. Pony-tailed Mr Switch from Edinburgh ditched his born-with moniker, Clive Henshaw, due to its ’overtly Christian connotations' and got into an ungodly scrap while trying to get himself removed from a baptism register. Can't remember Clive the


THOSE EMBLEMS OF English patriotism, the White Cliffs of now tarnished by revelations from geologists that they are nothing more than ancient dung piles. The chalk which gives the cliffs that pure driven snow look is actually the fossilised remains of shrimp

A. D $X9N’T * Egélgaé?

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The truth is out there: but scientists say Greenpeace is misleading the public

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sparking new allergies'

While he believes biotechnology is producmg great benefits in medicine, AiiIOnio doesn’t think anyone benefits from genetically enhanced food, except for large chemical companies 'Y0u have to come to the cynical concluSion that this is for the convenience of the producer not the consumer'

He is calling for proper regulation, including toxic ity trials on human volunteers. ’Right now this is literally Russian Roulette It is an insult to good science


Previously, GM food introduced to the UK has had prominent labelling. Several supermarkets stock tomato paste and the Co-op sells cheese made with modified rennet but these are clearly identified.

However, American soya importers are now mixing this season’s crop of soya with new modified beans, sparking a blockade of Liverpool docks by Greenpeace and boycotts by Scottish wholefood retailers, amid accusations that they are riding roughshod over the public’s right to choose.

Glasgow wholesalers Green City Wholefoods have invested £1000 in a campaign for more information and plan to boycott any product which cannot be identified as free of manipulation.

Next month they will present a petition to the Secretary of State for Scotland, calling for a moratorium on the introduction of all GM food.

’We should call a halt to this right now, but at the very least we need to label food so that consumers can choose whether they want to take the risk or not,’ said genetics campaign officer Lindsay Keenan.

However, the technology will be strenuously defended at the Edinburgh International SCience Festival on 27 March, in a day-long conference on food engineering.

Professor Michael Wilson of the Scottish Crop Research Institute is a key speaker. He argues fear is being spread by a minority of ill-informed actiVists.

Maize modified usmg a gene derived from the E- coli bacterium is already in the country. There is nothing startling about that, according to Wilson E-coli is already present in everybody’s intestines anyway. 'They are manipulating the media and frightening peOple, completely without Justification and knowledge,’ he said.

He pomts out that in many cases, genetically modified crops reduce the need for pesticides and cut subsequent contamination. ’Sixty per cent of our food is contaminated With pesticides. It is that stuff that should have labels on it'

With the public largely unaware of the compleXities of the debate, it is this labelling issue which is receivmg the most attention. Biotechnologists know that if they can’t persuade the public that produce is safe, then they have failed.

To allay fears, labelling the relevant foods would seem no more than good politics. Many of those in favour of the technology feel the tactics of the American soya industry are a counterproductive step in appearing to deliberately ignore consumer concerns.

disciple in Bible class, mind you.

. which

smokes it,‘

appear a little

Tony Blair: looking to the future with ZOOOAD

Andfinally...Blair’s comiccapersas chimp enioys the high life

droppings. It may be grim up north but at least it's not founded on crustacean faeces and fish poo.

FORGET THE OLD Firm, if you want to know what war is, check out the The Herald diarist Tom Shields versus Waterstone’s Union Street bookshop, with The List caught, innocently, in the crossfire.

Shields used an entry concerning an incident in the shop as evidence that our I Saw You column attracts undesirable Waterstone’s staff reply in this

both 'bearded‘ and 'gullible.’ It’s all most reprehensible don't these people believe in love at first sight?

Meanwhile, it seems that free

Once Seen column of its own and is charging £10 per message. (Brian Donaldson)

Zl Mar—3 Apr 1997 THE USTS

elements. ;

issue's column by declaring it to have been a wind-up and, the horror, describing Mr Shields as 3

love is no longer to be found south of the border. London’s listings magazine Time Out has launched a