When a grocery luminary turned government red tapebuster talks to the trade's biggest gathering about a subject as controversial as GM foods, you would expect the audience to sit up and listen. Yet that wasn't the case at the Provision Trade Federation's annual dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Tuesday. For when Lord Haskins, the man who built his reputation as head of Northern Foods and is now also chair of Tony Blair's Better Regulation Task Force, spoke there were too many in the 1,000 plus audience who had left their good manners outside in Park Lane. And that's a pity. Had they listened to the noble Lord instead of indulging in what is sadly becoming the norm at many industry dinners ­ conducting loutish, cross table conversations until the comedian comes on ­ they would have heard one of the most thought provoking orations for many a year. Chris Haskins drew on his considerable experience of food matters to warn that if industry and government do not rebuild their credibility with the public, fantasy voices will prevail, scientific Luddism may become the order of the day, and the socially excluded poor of the world will be sacrificed to the affluent agenda of the neurotic classes of the West. Strong stuff. Yet it was refreshing to hear so distinguished a figure put the other side of the story after the sea of one-sided propaganda which has polluted so much of the new technology debate since the BSE debacle. Haskins is right to appeal for a sense of proportion on GM issues. True, the US promoters of the concept were arrogant when they presented their case to the world. But it was a kneejerk reaction when panicky retailers and manufacturers banned the use of GM ingredients in their products. So he's also right to warn that those embargoes will become unsustainable as GM technology becomes the order of the day in other parts of the world. Hopefully, speeches like Lord Haskins' will inject a sense of proportion into the whole GM debate. But then, if people don't take time to listen... Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}