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Risk evaluation needed for GM food: experts

Risk evaluation needed for GM food: experts

Updated: 2012-04-28 21:21


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XI'AN - The public's attitude toward genetically modified (GM) food should encompass a greater scope than simply supporting or objecting to the practice, said industry experts.

Despite continued controversy regarding its safety, GM food has found some supporters among the Nobel Prize laureates and other experts attending the third World DNA and Genome Week currently being held in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.

Richard Roberts, who was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, said GM food is even safer than traditional food, as its transgenic technology allows for the use of smaller amounts of water and pesticide in harsh environments.

Professor Ian Campbell from Australia's Peter MacCallum Cancer Center agreed, saying that no scientific evidence showing that GM food is harmful to people's health has been presented to date.

Campbell noted that campaigns against GM food in Europe have had political underpinnings.

GM food is widely believed to have the potential to solve global hunger and malnutrition problems, and to help protect and preserve the environment by increasing yields and reducing reliance on chemical pesticides and herbicides.

However, there are many challenges ahead, especially in terms of safety testing, regulation and international policy. Many of the forum's attendees called for more risk evaluation and stricter regulations for GM food and transgenic technology.

Martin Evans, a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine in 2007, said the belief that transgenic technology is safe is not entirely founded and any conclusion should be based on testing results.

Dr. Alan Christoffels, director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute, held the same view. He said that since GM food remains a controversial issue, scientists should continue testing to make it safer.

People do not trust GM food because transgenic technology is not well-regulated, said Michael Brower, a senior federal policy director from New York.

Brower said he believes the public should have the right to know which foods are genetically modified, adding that food producers should keep the process transparent for the public.

"The comprehensive evaluation of the risks of GM food and the strict regulation of the development of transgenic technology are vital," said Li Xing, a professor at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Xi'an.