Readers' reactions

November 6, 1998

Last week in The THES... Sue Howard asked if all nurses should have degrees

Geoffrey Hunt European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences University of Surrey

Of course they should. One of the key issues is the re-education of nursing tutors who need time and resources to update their lecturing skills. They may then play their part in re-orienting universities to engage with the real needs of the caring services.

Two weeks ago in The THES ... Jules Pretty explained why we should ban genetically modified crops for a three-year trial period

Soapbox readers overwhelmingly agree. Sixty-five of the 68 readers who wrote in said that the growing of GM crops in Britain should be delayed. Some want it banned altogether, others call for a moratorium of up to 15 years to allow for research into any associated risks.

Readers want evidence that these crops are safe to eat, they worry that organic crops might be endangered by cross-pollination with GM crops and they fear for the long-term effects on the environment.

Typical of the responses is Helen Lianos of the Institute for European Environment Policy. She takes issue with claims that GM crops might help feed the world's poor cheaply. "The companies developing them concentrate on crops for the Western world. These crops are inappropriate for Third World countries", she says.

And Noel Flay Cass, of the centre for science studies, Lancaster University, argues: "Treating the food supply as experimental material and tampering with nature in order to see what happens are unacceptable methods, even by positivist science's crazy logic."

A minority voice on the other side, Allan Buckwell, professor of agricultural economics at Wye College, University of London, pleads for greater sophistication about agricultural matters. "If this kind of debate cannot take place in academic media there is little hope for rational discussion elsewhere," he writes.

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