Letter: Changes to GM Food Laws Will Put Public Health at Risk

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As a long-time contributor to medical biotechnology, I write to express my deep disagreement with Camilla Cavendish (“We Must Overcome the Fear of Genetic Engineering in Our Food”, Opinion, June 19). Cavendish justifies the deregulation of genetically modified foods by citing popular acceptance of GM drugs, including some Covid vaccines.

But the medical applications of GMOs are completely different from the food uses. Medicines are intended for those who need them and are strictly regulated. The effects are limited to the individual who gives informed consent to accept risks in exchange for the expected benefits. Effects are monitored after release.

What the UK government is advocating – and Cavendish is supporting – is the deregulation of GM foods, meaning the removal of safety checks and labeling that allows the public to choose to take the risk of eating a new GM food. Labeling also guarantees traceability in the event of a problem, such as the appearance of new toxins or allergens, which, given the inherent imprecision and unpredictability of GMOs, is quite possible. Safeguards that exist under current GM food laws must be maintained to protect public health.

Michel Antoniou
Head of Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy’s Hospital, London SE1, United Kingdom

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