Ball in Public's court

Published: Thursday 15 May 2003

The uk's Food Standards Agency (fsa) has sought the people's opinion on the controversial issue of genetically modified (gm) crops. The watchdog body seeks to engage a "citizen's jury", comprising 16 people from the town of Slough in the southern part of the country, to discuss whether gm food should be made commercially available. Environmental group Friends of the Earth says the exercise is a waste of money, and would not add value to the government's official gm debate.

The uk is expected to decide later in the year on whether to grow gene-spliced crops on a commercial basis. Scientists state that gm technology could solve world hunger, but opponents say such crops could contaminate traditional varieties.

Lobby groups allege that the fsa is partial towards biotechnology. A few transgenic products are already available, but shops are wary of retailing them fearing consumer anxiety. Earlier this year, the uk government had said that it would initiate a national public debate on gm crops. But the government also faced criticism when it confirmed that an important scientific evaluation of the technology would end before the gm crop field trials finish.

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