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GMOs back on the menu?

David Cameron and his ministers called for a return to a 'pro-science' culture, with recognition of the role to be played by new biotechnologies in meeting the global demand for food. An Australian study purported to show that a GM-based diet has adverse effects on pig health.

The media gave significant coverage to speeches by David Cameron, Science Minister, David Willets and Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, calling for recognition of the substantial contribution to be made by GM technologies in meeting the challenges of feeding a rapidly expanding world population in the next 20-30 years. This view received broadly sympathetic coverage in most reports.

Needless to say, these statements were roundly challenged by NGOs such as the Soil Association and the Daily Mail spoke of a 'Frankenfood Conspiracy'.

The Daily Mail also reported on an Australian research project, in which two groups of pigs were fed on GM corn and soya and a non-GM equivalent diet respectively. In the case of pigs fed on the GM diet, there was a higher occurrence of digestive and reproductive problems in autopsies carried out at slaughter.

The PigSite reported that several scientists had questioned the statistical validity of the study and the Biotechnology Industry Organisation noted that “this study was authored by anti-biotech campaigners. Hundreds of independent studies found no difference between animals fed GM or non-GM diets.”