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Blair Concerned for Modified Food

February 27, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Genetically modified foods are potentially damaging to human health and the environment, and a cause for legitimate public concern, Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in a newspaper article published Sunday.

But Blair added in his piece for The Independent on Sunday that the potential benefits of genetic engineering are considerable.

The prime minister’s comments appeared to mark a shift in his attitude toward modified foods. Only a year ago, he expressed frustration at the public outcry over such foods and said he was sufficiently confident about their safety to eat them himself.

Genetically altered crops are plants whose genes are manipulated to produce characteristics such as resistance to pests. Blair’s government has sponsored trials designed to indicate whether such crops pose a threat to the environment, but has not yet approved any for commercial use.

In a separate news story, The Independent on Sunday, which has campaigned against genetically modified crops, said Blair’s article was partially motivated by the fact that not enough farmers have agreed to grow such crops on a trial basis this year.

``There is no doubt, either, that this new technology could bring benefits for mankind,″ Blair wrote. ″(Genetically modified) crops, too, have the potential for good _ helping feed the hungry by increasing yields, enabling new strains of crops to be grown in hostile conditions, or which are resistant to pests and disease.″

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