'The danger from genetically modified (GM) food is a nonexistent threat which is used by unprincipled politicians to scare an ignorant population,' believes Konstantin Skryabin, the director of the Bioengineering Centre of the Russian Agricultural Academy. The scientist expressed this opinion yesterday at a press conference. He stressed that scientists throughout the world have long ago concluded that GM foods do not pose a threat.
Skryabin said that compared to selection techniques from the past, genetic engineering is much less dangerous. 'Previously, selection could be compared with chaotic gunfire as a result of which hundreds of modifications occurred. Genetic engineering takes one gene, studies its properties fully, and then uses the genetic information appropriately,' explained the scientist. He also added that only 50 plants, which have undergone careful testing, are currently licensed for use. Tens of thousands of other plants developed in laboratories remain unused.
According to Skryabin, the future of humankind rests in the hands of genetic engineering and molecular biology. He believes that this is the only real way to save the Earth's ecology. Skryabin also said that only molecular biology can help people to overcome famine in the future. Plants need to be altered so that they contain enough protein, fats, hydrocarbons and vitamins to feed people.
Between 1996 and 2002 the total area under cultivation of GM crops grew 35 times to 58 million hectares. These crops include corn, soya, cotton and rape. The main producers of GM crops are the US, Argentina, Canada and China. GM crops are grown in a total of 16 countries. Although European countries do not, on the whole, grow GM crops, they use them extensively in the food industry.
Cultivation of GM crops is currently forbidden in Russia. Field tests have been carried out and two types of potato have passed the state registration process and received bio-safety certificates, said Skryabin.
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