If Sir John Krebs was in any doubt about the size of his task as chairman of the new Food Standards Agency, he isn't now. Three days in Edinburgh chairing a world summit of scientists, environmentalists and policymakers on the GM issue was a smart way of easing himself into the job, not to mention getting to grips with one of the main issues overshadowing the embryonic FSA. But if the contrasting noises coming from Scotland's capital have done anything this week it is only to add to the confusion in consumers' minds about the safety and integrity of GM foods. And, as for Sir John, it was an especially challenging week as he strived to find common ground between pro and anti-GM groups. In truth, it's been hard to spot much rational debate on the issue over recent months as dollops of anti-GM propaganda have been been given added spice by the media and then served up to an increasingly frightened public. Not that the government has helped. Its muddled signals, made all the worse by the PM's new found worries expressed last weekend in a Sunday broadsheet, have, despite the Downing Street denials, fuelled suspicions that New Labour is now getting the jitters. Strange that, given this writer has, in private discussions with senior politicians, not to mention top grocery figures, recently been regaled with whispered admissions that they're disappointed by the alarmist anti-GM propaganda. Sadly, their public utterances display the opposite. On Monday, a senior director of one of our top four multiples lamented to me that there had not been enough sensible debates about the issue, and that he regretted the weight of the anti GM lobby had forced the multiples to outlaw genetically modified ingredients. Dramatic green lobby inspired headlines will inevitably cut the speed of GM development. And now shoppers reading some of this week's reports have become even more alarmed. We can only hope Sir John Krebs puts his Edinburgh experience to good use when he takes the FSA reins on April 3. Then, hopefully, more balance will replace the hysteria. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}