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Concern grows over genetically modified food.

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Introduction

Concern grows over genetically modified food By Paul Mitchell and Keith Lee 21 November 1998 In January this year, a researcher at the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland said of genetically modified food, "If left to me, I would certainly not eat it. We are putting new things into food which would have not been eaten before. The effects on the immune system are not easily predictable and I challenge anyone who will say that the effects are predictable." On the basis of his recent research, the scientist concerned, Dr. Arpad Pusztai, repeated the warnings on the TV program World In Action on August 10. The next day, the director of the Rowett Research Institute ordered an investigation. Within days the director announced that he had impounded Dr. Pusztai's data and Dr. Pusztai was going to retire. Dr. Pusztai is a world authority in plant chemicals research and has worked for 35 years at the institute, publishing 270 scientific papers. He strongly believes in the benefits that genetic modification can bring to humanity, but says biotechnology companies are introducing the new technology too quickly and with insufficient research. Scientists first discovered the technique of genetic modification in the 1970s. It has great potential and is moving ahead very rapidly. ...read more.

Middle

Biotechnology is big business and enormous potential profits are at stake. The global crop protection market alone is worth $20 billion. Companies like Monsanto, Dupont and Novartis spend billions on the research and production of genetically modified food. The Rowett Research Institute, like many scientific establishments, has become increasingly dependent on the financial support of these companies because of government cuts. Monsanto has just spent $3.2 billion acquiring two companies, and forming a joint venture with a third, that have research, seed production and processing capabilities. It has also spent $6.5 billion buying up seed businesses, recently acquiring Cargill's international seed operation. By the end of the century four to five companies will dominate global seed supplies. The development of global planning and production of food could be the means to eradicate poverty and hunger, but it will not happen if left in the hands of the biotechnology companies. The intense competition for markets and to realise a profit on investments undermines the possibility of planning in a co-operative and systematic way. Monsanto's shareholders have seen a four-fold increase in their shares since 1994, but were unhappy recently when the company reported profits of only �294 million dollars on sales of �7.5 billion. ...read more.

Conclusion

Instead, the result has been the increased development of huge agribusinesses in the West "overproducing" and creating "food mountains" whilst millions starve in the Third World. Small farmers in both areas are ruined. It is cheaper for small farmers in Mexico to buy North American maize in their local markets than it is to grow their own. The development of genetically modified crops will exacerbate this development. In the struggle to dominate the market, the biotechnology companies do not look kindly on opposition to their plans and they have some very powerful allies. Fourteen US states have made it illegal to spread "falsely and damaging information about food". Two journalists are suing Fox TV who fired them after they refused to broadcast a program about Monsanto's modified cattle growth hormone. Jane Akre, one of the journalists, explained how they wanted to tell "the truth about a giant chemical company and a powerful dairy lobby. That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for. As we've learned the hard way, it's something you can be fired for these days". It appears the action taken against Dr. Pusztai relates to his TV warnings. Soon after his enforced retirement was announced, the printers of the Ecologist magazine pulped an edition devoted entirely to Monsanto. A spokesperson for the magazine thought the printer's lawyers might have advised them to destroy the magazine out of fear of being sued. ...read more.

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