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Gianni Tamino, co-Vice President of the European Greens, is the most active of the Italian Greens on the matter of Genetic Engineering. I asked Gianni what he thought should be done to keep genetic engineering under control.
He said that it is urgent that legal instruments be created that regulate the research, experimentation and the use of genetic manipulation techniques. Establishing new rules does not mean limiting the freedom of research, but to reaffirm that research cannot be immoral. Also, once it has been scientifically proven that a certain procedure is possible, whether it should actually be done or not, after considering all the possible consequences, [concerns] the whole of society. Thus the principle of caution must be applied. Not everything that science says is possible must actually be done, instead it is necessary to guarantee that the practical applications of the technologies that are invented by science do not go against peoples interest.
Particularly unacceptable is the concept of "equivalence" on the basis of which all derivatives obtained from genetically modified soya and maize do not need to be labeled because they are equivalent to those that are obtained from fully natural plants.
It is necessary to verify what any undesirable side effects could be, with a moral obligation to forbid any technologies for which we cannot predict the real consequences, not just in the short term, but also in respect to future generations.
Until today there has been a total lack of respect for the public right to be completely informed and to take part in the decision making process in such a way that any future decisions be made with the full participation of the community. This means transparency of those that operate manufacturing plants, avoiding industrial secrecy and guaranteeing maximum information on all products put on the consumer market. Labels that must be clear and easy to read and understand: they must indicate both the ingredients and any procedures that alter genetic information.
A ruling that regulates the labeling of products obtained from soya and maize genetically modified only came out in mid '98, whereas a new ruling is about to come out, the "Novel Food Regulations," that requires clear labeling of all products that contain food that has been genetically manipulated. On the other hand these have many flaws. Particularly unacceptable is the concept of "equivalence" on the basis of which all derivatives obtained from genetically modified soya and maize do not need to be labeled because they are equivalent to those that are obtained from fully natural plants. In this way the consumer does not know the origin of the oil, the starch or the lecitin and many other substances that are used for a great number of food products. The consumer would not be able to make a conscious choice based on the ecological consequences, or the world economy, etc. For these reasons we must work hard to obtain clear, legible labels "contains genetically manipulated ingredients." This must be an obligation any time an animal or plant product has been subject to genetic manipulation, independently from the principle of "equivalence."