Rooker accuses 'messianic' anti-GM lobby of ignorance
FOOD and Farming Minister Jeff Rooker has launched a scathing attack on opponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, who he said were on a 'messianic mission' to halt the technology.
Speaking at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting, he accused the anti-GM lobby of 'ignorance' and warned that opposition to the technology was jeopardising the UK's scientific base.
Responding to a question about whether the time was now right to reignite the debate on GM crops, the outspoken peer expressed frustration at what he described as the 'anti science climate' in evidence across the EU.
“We have to take on and challenge those who pontificate. It isn't just GM issues, it's the same with nanotechnology where simply because it's a new science there's an automatic barrier.
“We are taking a long-term view on this because we don't want to snuff out an industry before it has started.”
He pointed out that 10 years ago GM tomato paste was outselling ordinary tomato paste two to one. “Then we got the 'Frankenstein foods', which is a brilliant sound bite and you can't counteract a sound bite that is ignorant and not based on science,” he said.
He attacked protestors who seek to disrupt trials of GM. “We accept GM medicines for ourselves and our loved ones but it is a different issue with food.
“If the ignorance prevails where you don't allow an experiment to take place because of the fear of what you might find and if we just put up with it and say they are entitled to go and trash the fields and the magistrates will let them off, then frankly we are being taken for a ride.”
He stressed that there was no evidence that anyone's health had ever been damaged by GM crops.
He also warned that the UK would 'lose its biotechnology scientific base if scientists were 'not able to progress in areas where we will see a positive advantage'.
He acknowledged that the first step was to find GM products that benefited consumers rather than just producers, as has been the case up to this point.
But even if that was achieved - and he suggested GM food that helped people with food allergies the answer - opponents of GM technology would have to be defeated for it to be given a chance.
He said he was not in favour of blanket approval of GM crops but wanted a rational debate.
“What I do not accept are the arguments and the slogans where there isn't any validity. They are on a messianic mission, it is like a religion, but there is no science base to it.”