New fears over GM crops

Leading environmental groups have accused the European Commission of approving genetically modified organisms despite safety concerns.

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By  Lynne Nolan Published  May 1, 2006

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have accused the European Commission of telling the public that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe, whilst admitting to the WTO that it does have some concerns over GM produce. The report, obtained using freedom of information rules, warns there are large areas of scientific uncertainty, and raises fears about weeds and insects becoming resistant to the toxins in GM crops. Debate about the need for GM foods has raged since the mid 1990s, as genetic modification allows scientists to take genes from one organism and put them into another, changing the way it develops. Despite recent concerns from EU ministers about the merits of these specially designed foods — and the effect it has on humans — they are becoming widespread across the rest of the world, including the UAE. “There is a need for more information to be made available to the public about GM foods,” said Munqeth Mehyar, chairperson and Jordanian director, Friends of the Earth Middle East. However, hotels in the region are keen to add that they do not use GM produce. “Our staff do not use genetically modified foods. In my opinion, the side effects of using this type of food will absolutely show on the next generation,” said Marius Lichtwald, chef de cuisine, Brauhaus, Jumeira Rotana Hotel. “We believe in providing guests with the best and freshest food, and GM food is definitely not as healthy as natural and organic foods,” added chef Marius. But in the Middle East, there is very little regulatory activity on the issue of GMOs, with few countries from the region active in the only international agreement related to GMOs — the UN Biosafety Protocol. “To our knowledge, only Egypt is party to the protocol across the Middle East and Levant region,” said Nnimmo Bassey, international coordinator, Friends of the Earth GM campaign. “The Middle East has become well advanced in the modern world, but people should go back and look at what their ancestors did in terms of food production. People should be urged not to look at getting a quick buck, but putting their health first before using any of these GM organisms,” Mehyar commented. Mehyar also added that the Jordanian division of the environmental group is in complete support of the moves taken by Friends of the Earth Europe. The group has also spearheaded a strong campaign against genetically modified products in Jordan, holding workshops to convince people there are alternatives. “It is now well known that GM products, particularly rice and wheat, cause vitamin deficiency. As such, we are totally against GM organisms and would advise the use of organic and naturally grown organisms instead,” added Mehyar.

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