by RAY FLEMING
THE debate on the use of genetically modified crops is an extremely difficult one for the general public to join. The scientific and environmental considerations are far beyond the capacity of most laypersons to grasp and reach an informed view. Yet because influential lobbying groups - mostly opposed to GM technology have brought this subject into the public arena the government has felt it necessary to institute various consultation procedures whose outcome has been generally hostile to genetic modification in crops. Some of the distinguished scientists involved in this field wrote yesterday to the Prime Minister to complain about the way in which the whole matter is being handled. The letter is signed by 114 scientists who clearly are angry and frustrated at what is happening. They say that public consultation meetings have been “highjacked” by opponents of GM technology and they criticise ministers for “remaining silent in the face of misleading reports on GM”. THE government is in a difficulty here. The public consultation it has arranged would have no value if it were not seen to be open and above board. If ministers or their officials were going to meetings and telling people they did not know what they are talking about the consultation would be seen as a fraud and a waste of time. Furthermore, are the scientists who signed the letter the only ones engaged in GM technology? Are there not others who have a different view? The government says it is taking a “precautionary approach” to this difficult subject. That seems about right. It should not seem to favour one side or the other until all the evidence has been gathered in. Meanwhile these concerned scientists should do more themselves to get their views across to the public.