A cross-party parliamentary inquiry has been launched today into new European regulations that MPs say restrict the growth of genetically modified (GM) foods in the UK and across the continent.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs believes that GM is one of several technologies necessary to foster a “vibrant sector” in UK agriculture.
But the European Union’s application of the ‘precautionary principle’ has been criticised, with critics saying it holds back development of GM technology despite European Commission reports finding no scientific evidence associating GM organisms with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety.
The regulations will now be scrutinised by members of Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee. Andrew Miller MP, the committee’s chairman, said: “GM technology potentially offers an array of benefits, but concerns are being expressed that it is being held back by misuse of the precautionary principle.
“In this inquiry we will be looking at whether such restrictions are hampering UK scientific competitiveness and whether they are still appropriate in light of the available evidence on the safety of GM.”
GM crops remain a controversial topic in Britain, with trials conducted by the Rothamsted Research institute in England having been vandalised in the past. They are more widely embraced elsewhere.
By 2012, more than 17m farmers in 28 countries were growing GM crops across 170m hectares – more than 12 per cent of the world’s arable land.