Biotechnology in Europe

By Andrew Sansotta

Technology is everywhere and as Canadians we have come to accept that. Most of us don’t question–or care–what chemicals are used to grow our vegetables or what hormones are pumped into our livestock. Europe is a different story, according to Vivian Moses, a British scientist from Kings College who also sits on the board of CropGen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology corporations.

"Many European countries are very crowded so ‘natural’ countryside is very precious; genetically modified crops are [thought to be] ‘not natural,’" stated Moses on Fri., Sept. 20.

Apparently, the people of the U.K. want to see their accustomed "natural" landscape when they roll by in their Minis including pubs, churches, and carefully trimmed hedges. Moses’ interpretation of what is natural may be unique when opposed to the thoughts of the masses.

"Everything within the bounds of nature is natural and since humans are natural our products are natural," she said. "I often ask people ‘when did man become unnatural?’ Was it the day Mr. Jones invented the wheel?"

For some in the British Isles it may have occurred when things stepped outside their range of knowledge.

"I don’t think people actually want the results of these experiments," she said of genetically modified foods. "They want to put their trust in someone who’s going to tell them everything is going to be o.k."

"The problem is, you can never guarantee what the future will hold–so you can’t guarantee 100 per cent. [As humans] we’ve learned to survive what’s been thrown at us so far," Moses continued.

In the coming years the British government will have to decide whether or not they want to incorporate this technology into the production of their food and the answer they give may determine the fate of biotechnology throughout the rest of Europe. Not surprisingly, the issue is laden with many political intricacies, one of the main and most controversial being the subject of Third World countries.

"These countries might have much more of an emotional effect on the British government rather than the Americans saying ‘this is good,’" she said, the "emotional effect" being the lives of starving children and adults throughout underdeveloped countries. These are countries that the European Union necessarily trades with and countries that may greatly benefit from what biologically-engineered foods have to offer.

"The British government has said they will make their decision in a general election by late 2005," she said. "Barring any unforeseen happenings [with trial crops now being tested], I think they will accept it."

Leave a comment