Ross Clark Ross Clark

Globophobia | 11 October 2003

A weekly survey of world restrictions on freedom and free trade

Ninety-eight per cent of the British population, according to the results of the government’s ‘national debate’, say that they do not wish to eat genetically modified food. Eighty-four per cent say that GM food is ‘an unacceptable interference with nature’, and 93 per cent say that not enough is known about the long-term health effects of GM foods.

So much for the views of the average Briton, chomping his way through a burger of mechanically recovered meat and slurping some lurid concoction from a can plastered top to bottom with E numbers. No unacceptable interference with nature, the standard, non-genetically modified diet of modern Britain — a diet consumed, to judge by the proliferation of fast-food outlets, by the majority of people who filled in the 37,000 questionnaires or attended the 700 public meetings that constituted the debate.

How many of those who offered their views are bothered about the selective breeding that has created farm animals so fat they are unable to support their weight, or are terribly concerned about battery chickens? To judge by the continued sale of non-free-range eggs, not many. Yet when GM food is mentioned the population rises up in horror at the very idea of meddling with nature.

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The government’s national debate has revealed less about arguments for and against battery farming than it has about the spread of fear in an advanced industrial society.

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