GM food conference ends with call for creation of international panel

The OECD's conference on the safety of GM food has ended without significant agreement, but with the recommendation that an international panel be formed to debate the issues further.

The conclusions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) GM food conference in Edinburgh will be presented at the next G8 meeting, in Japan in July.

Chairing the conference was John Kreb, who will head the UK’s new Food Standards Agency. Kreb concluded “there is a case for suggesting the development of some kind of continuing international dialogue” and argued that an international panel on GM food should inform rather than set policy. Kreb also said that the panel should take into consideration not only the agricultural and food aspects of biotechnology but also how GM foods impact on trade, economic development, the environment and ethics.

The Secretary General of OECD, Donald Johnston, said that his organisation would be well placed to establish an international panel on GM foods.

Several environmental and social justice NGOs attended the OECD conference, including GeneWatch, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FoE). FoE dismissed the conference as a “missed opportunity”.

“The reason why this expensive conference took place was because of the reasonable public concerns that GM foods were on the market without adequate provision to research their long term impacts on health,” Kevin Dunion, director of FoE Scotland said. “Yet such concerns were dismissed by Sir John Krebs because they were not backed with scientific data. That truth is that no one has attempted to collect such data. The conference missed an opportunity to require robust research methods to assess a wide range of potential hazards before any commercial development is permitted.”

A full report by the OECD on its conference will be posted on the organisation’s website by the end of the month.

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