Letter to the editor of the Financial Times
The letter below is reproduced on GMWatch with the kind permission of Dr Michael Antoniou. You can read our response to Camilla Cavendish's article, "We must overcome the fear of genetic engineering in our food", here.
Letter: Changes in GM food laws will imperil public health
From Michael Antoniou, Head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London
Financial Times, 29 June 2021
Archived version: https://archive.ph/dMPmz
Original paywalled URL: https://www.ft.com/content/0418517b-a170-41df-9619-40f4f25ddc3d
As a career-long contributor to medical biotechnology, I write to express my strong disagreement with Camilla Cavendish (“We must overcome the fear of genetic engineering in our food”, Opinion, June 19). Cavendish justifies deregulation of genetically modified foods by citing popular acceptance of GM medicines, including some Covid vaccines.
But medical applications of GM are completely different from food uses. Medicines are targeted at those who need them and are strictly regulated. Any effects are confined to the individual who gives their informed consent to accepting risks in exchange for hoped-for benefits. Effects are monitored post release.
What the UK government is advocating — and Cavendish is supporting — is the deregulation of GM foods, meaning the removal of safety checks and labelling that enables the public to choose whether to take the risk of eating a novel GM food. Labelling also ensures traceability in case something goes wrong — such as the appearance of new toxins or allergens, which, given the inherent imprecision and unpredictability of GM is well within the realms of possibility. The safeguards that exist under current GM food laws must be maintained to protect public health.
Head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy’s Hospital, London SE1, UK