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Britain gives more time, money to GM crop debate

(Sunday, Feb. 24, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: LONDON - Britain conceded there are problems surrounding the launch of a public debate on genetically modified crops and it granted more time for the exercise ahead of a decision on growing altered plants commercially.

UK farm minister Margaret Beckett said in a letter to Malcolm Grant, the head of the GM debate steering board, that the debate could now be extended to the end of September from June.

The government has promised to take its views into account before making a decision on the commercial growing of GM crops.

Environmentalists have been sceptical and dismissed the discussion as a token gesture, believing that the government is set to give a green light to GM crops.

Beckett also doubled the budget for the debate to 500,000 pounds. "I believe that this level of funding should be more than sufficient to enable the Steering Board to deliver a credible and high profile public debate."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken in favour of GM technology, while Environment Minister Michael Meacher has labelled it unnecessary and said it is difficult to foresee what troubles it may be storing up for future generations.

Environmentalists say GM crops will contaminate traditional varieties and throw eco-systems out of kilter, while some scientists say they could solve world hunger.