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The human insulin used to treat diabetes is genetically engineered: the human gene that codes for insulin has been transferred into bacteria and yeast, a process that involves crossing the species barrier. Hardly anyone opposes this medical miracle, yet millions of people across Europe have been taught to feel vaguely uneasy about genetic modification in agriculture. By what rationale, asks Dick Taverne, can this technology be considered safe and ethical when saving lives in medical treatment, but not when used to make crops resistant to pests or drought to save people from starvation? With world population heading from six to…

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