Genetic boom

Few scientific developments have provoked more shouting than genetically mo-dified foods. Plenty of people, especially in Europe, call them Frankenfoods and argue that we do not know if they cause cancer or fatal allergy Genetically modified crops, which carry transplanted genes from other species to make them easier to grow or more nutritious, should indeed be the subject of intense debate.

Are these foods safe to eat? The evidence is overwhelming that they are, a conclusion endorsed by Food and Agriculture Organisation last week in its 2004 annual report. The report says genetically modified crops are not aimed at helping the world’s hungry. griculture is the livelihood of 70 per cent of the world’s poor. Billions are already malnourished because their staple crops supply few nutrients. Genetic engineering can help on both counts. The poor need a “gene revolution” to follow the 1960’s “green revolution,” which helped hundreds of millions by increasing the yields of wheat, rice and other crops. But so far, there’s only been a gene revolution for agribusiness. Many poor countries are suspicious of genetic engineering. The FAO urges them to realise its potential and welcome engineered products. Wealthy countries must sponsor research, while critics of modified foods need to realise that their opposition is harmful. — The New York Times