Food Chemical News
March 21, 2005


By Mark Thornton

A top Australian scientist believes traditional crops are more
dangerous to eat than genetically modified ones.

Philip Larkin, principal plant industry scientist with the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, said
traditionally bred crops generate far more genetic risks than GM
crops, yet go on the market virtually unregulated.

"GM foods are the safest foods ever introduced into the human diet,"
Larkin told an Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Research
Economics conference in Canberra.

"The reality is that plants can be dangerous. They have the genes for
making a huge battery of poisons and irritants."

Researchers performing conventional cross-breeding could accidentally
create gene rearrangements that create poisons, he said, citing new
varieties of celery, zucchini squash and potato as examples.

Larkin said he had bred a nematode-resistant tomato by introducing a
fragment of a related poisonous species that contained the resistant
gene as well as about 500 others.

"Yet no regulatory approval was needed before the new variety was
released," he said.

He compared this work with that of creating a GM tomato containing the
resistant gene, which had been identified, isolated and cloned. The GM
tomato would be subject to all the restrictions and suspicions
associated with any GM product by anti-GM campaigners and the Gene
Technology Regulator, who is charged with carrying out a battery of
trials on novel foods.

Yet on the evidence, he suggested that surely the greater risk resides
with the conventionally bred tomato.

The use of the precautionary principle to stop GM developments makes
for an excellent bumper sticker but is not a good basis for decision
making, he said.

"I can use the precautionary principle to mount a very compelling case
against organic food and herbal remedies," Larkin concluded.

Copyright 2005 Food Chemical News