8 February 2003
Prince is told his GM views are 'criminal'
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The "irrational superstitions" of the Prince of Wales should not influence the public in the debate over GM foods, says a Nobel prize-winning scientist.
For that to happen would be a crime, claims Prof James Watson, one of the Cambridge team which launched the biotechnology revolution.
The Prince will be a notable absentee when Prof Watson addresses a dinner in April to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.
Although Prof Watson has asked for David and Victoria Beckham to be guests of honour at the London dinner, the Prince does not appear on the invitation list.
The reason may be Prof Watson's
forthcoming book, DNA: The Secret of Life. This
The Prince has voiced his concerns about how GM crops are unnatural, notably in his Reith lectures in 2000.
But Prof Watson points out: "Virtually no human being, save the very few remaining genuine hunter-gatherers, eats a strictly "natural diet."
Prince Charles famously declared in 1998 that "this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God".
Prof Watson says our ancestors "have in fact been fiddling in these realms for eons". The Prince had committed the "naturalistic fallacy" by assuming that what is natural is good.
"It is nothing less than an absurdity to deprive ourselves of the benefits of GM foods by demonising them; and, with the need for them so great in the developing world, it is nothing less than a crime to be governed by the irrational suppositions of Prince Charles and others.
"As our society delays in sanctimonious ignorance, we would do well to remember how much is at stake; the health of hungry people and the preservation of our most precious legacy, the environment."