Norwegian panel splits over GM food safety

Majority of advisory group concludes total ban would be unjustified, but worries remain

A Norwegian expert group studying the public health implications of genetically modified (GM) foods has concluded that the risks are not sufficiently high to justify a total ban. However, the panel is split on most points, and at least one member wants a blanket ban "for the time being".

In a statement on the panel's report, the Norwegian Food Control Authority (SNT), says: "The majority...feel that in many respects gene-modified foods are not as dangerous as many consumers believe," because Norway's regulatory system can prevent hazards to the public.

But all members of the panel express disquiet as to whether the system in its present form can predict or discover unintended or unexpected effects of gene modification.

The statement continues: "In the view of the panel, research expertise in Norway must be strengthened." A lack of broad-based research competence is "the main failing in Norway at present".

There are, moreover, "differing views in the panel as to how much scientific uncertainty can or should be tolerated before the authorities apply the precautionary principle and prevent the sale of gene-modified foodstuffs".

No GM foods have been approved for sale in Norway, although several applications to the SNT have been pending for about two years.

Follow Up:
Panel chairman Lars Walløe, tel: +47 22 85 12 18; SNT, tel: +47 22 24 66 50.

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