GM Science Review - Comments on First Report

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Name: Hamish Gatt Location (optional): Date: 16 October 2003
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Dear Sir/Madam

Comments on the Science Review of GM Crops

As a member of the public who had a GMOSR Field Scale Evaluation situated near my house I read through the Science Review with interest and dismay. I had expected a review of available science from a balanced panel but this was not what I read.

The major obstacle with GM crops is the fundamental belief from your panel that we know about the technology and it's effects. This at a time when gene splicing and it's effects are being raised by many in the scientific community. The review quite correctly states there are gaps in knowledge and understanding but the major problem is that it accepts the technology per se and looks at issues surrounding the premise that genetic engineering is wholly understood. This is not the case.

The second major problem I had with the review is the composition of the panel. At a time when the general public has made it plain that they do not trust either scientists or the biotech industry on the GM issue, the chapter on food safety is written by a gentleman who works for Monsanto. Given his profession he's hardly likely to say that there are any food safety problems is he? No wonder people are refusing to respond to the Science Review. I would hope that when you come to review any new science published in the intervening period that other scientists are brought on to the panel to do this. Otherwise, any integrity the review might have is lost.

The impact on human health is not covered in enough depth, in fact it is glossed over. The Scottish Parliament's Health Committee found investigation carried out on the effects of GMOs on human health to be lacking in both general and specific terms. The Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher recently expressed concerns on the potential health effects over a timescale of 10 to 30 years (Ecologist Magazine, March edition).

The health section could use work already carried out by the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee (including submissions made by many eminent scientists)and should refer to the BMA's policy paper on GM crops and their submission to the Scottish Parliament.

An Expert Advisory Group should be set up to fully research the area of health and should include representatives from the BMA, the Medical Research Council and independent scientists in the field of toxicology (as mentioned in the Parliament's Health Report e.g. Vyvyan Howard. Other scientists who have expertise in the health effects of GM include Dr Stanley Ewen, Aberdeen and Dr Harash Narang, Leeds University.

I hope you find these points useful and look forward to seeing a summary of this stage's consultation input.

Yours faithfully

Hamish Gatt