The first commercial exploitation of genetic technologies in the 1980s sparked a continuing debate over their acceptability, ethics and implications for society. Since this time, cloning, genetic screening and gene therapy have become topics of an intense discussion about how to use the potential of biotechnology in the best interests of the public, while criticism and outrage are mostly directed against genetically modified crops in the food supply. While GM crops are popular with growers and producers, the public is becoming increasingly uneasy about their potential environmental and health risks. Opposition started initially in Europe, particularly in the UK, but as a result of various environmental and consumer health scare stories in the media, there is now also growing disquiet among consumers in the USA and Asia. > It is critical to understand that there is a void between the actual or statistical risk that can be verified scientifically and the risk that is perceived by the public Lurid accounts of ‘Frankenfood’, vandalising of field trials of GM crops and retailers withdrawing GM foods from their shelves are the consequence. A number of scientific publications have been exploited by anti‐GM lobbyists to support the notion that GM crops pose a risk to health and the environment (Table 1). Although this served to highlight potential risks or drawbacks of GM crops, there were equally newsworthy events about positive aspects that failed to make it to the front pages of the press. These included the creation of the so‐called ‘Golden Rice’ to combat Vitamin A deficiency (Ye et al ., 2000), Oxfam acknowledging that GM crops could be of benefit to farmers in developing countries, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the UK generally endorsing the development of GM crops, the British House of Lords indicating that the benefits of GM crops outweighed any …

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