Chapter 40 : A European Furor

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Genetically modified (GM) crops have been the prime example in recent years. Though cultivated and widely accepted in the United States, they attracted public hostility in most European countries, where various types of moratoria were instituted. However, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was by no means the only microbial argument brandished in the crusade against GM foodstuffs. “Use of genetically modified bacteria in the food supplement tryptophan may have caused 37 deaths in the USA since 1989 as well as permanently disabling thousands of people. “Once released into the natural environment, genetically modified bacteria and plants interbreed with those in the wild. Some scientists fear the development of antibiotic-resistant ‘superbacteria.’” Two observations on the European field trials of GM crops seem pertinent. First, because scientists are (or try to be) rational creatures, they have an instinctive trust that rational solutions will prevail. Faced with assertions about transgenic plants based on BSE and about antibiotics destroying the flavor of food, they recoil in dismay, yet they believe that the absurdity of these claims will be quickly recognized. Secondly, both the unreality of many attacks on genetic manipulation and scientists' professional inclinations inhibited them from going on the offensive. The European furor over GM foods has many ingredients. They include historical concerns about genetics and eugenics, especially in Germany; suspicion of large companies; unease over intensive agriculture; and, in the United Kingdom, ex cathedra pronouncements by the heir to the throne.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. A European Furor, p 184-188. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch40
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1. Ainsworth, J. 1999. The Good Food Guide 1999. Consumers Association, London, United Kingdom.
2. Walker, M. C. 24 January 1997. The Times, London, United Kingdom.

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