Food safety boss says it’s time to put aside ‘irrational fears of GM technology’

The Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority has said it is time to put aside irrational and non-science based fears of new technologies in the interests of consumers everywhere.

“If Europe is to remain at the forefront of research and innovation in the agri-food arena, policies need to be developed now to guide the exploitation of this new genetic modification (GM) technology. It is time to put aside irrational and non-science based fears of new technologies in the interests of consumers everywhere,” the Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) Alan Reilly said.

He made the comments in the FSAI’s newsletter where he questioned where food safety concerns in regard to genetic modification is still justified.

Reilly stated that: “Over the past 20 years, the regulation of the use of genetic modification technology in food production remains one of the most controversial aspects of European food law. Opinions are polarised into pro- and anti-genetic modification lobbies. Reasons for opposition were many – ranging from protectionism, political ideology, food safety, fear of unknown consequences, the unpopularity of multi-national companies and potential environmental impacts. In response some EU Member States went as far as banning genetically modified (GM) crops.”

Reilly outlined that as a result, the application of this technology in Europe has stalled, while crops derived using genetic modification technology are widely grown and marketed in many other parts of the world.

“Despite experiences elsewhere, Europe remains a reluctant user, even as the technology has evolved over the past two decades and gets more sophisticated.”

Reilly also cited that in a review of a decade of research on GMOs, funded by the European Commission, the main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular genetic modification, is not per se riskier than conventional plant breeding technologies.

“Europe has spent hundreds of millions of euro on examining the safety of genetic modification technology as applied to foods. Strikingly, despite these findings, the result of this massive investment in research is that acceptance of the technology has not moved any further forward in some Member States.”