Scientists must lead way on GM

Any commercial introduction of GM crops must be done carefully, experts say.
Any commercial introduction of GM crops must be done carefully, experts say.
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ANY COMMERCIAL introduction of genetically modified crops must be done with a science-based approach, a panel of industry experts have said.

With the eyes of the arable farming sector focussed on Lincolnshire for its annual showpiece, Cereals, agricultural minds spoke of their concerns over political interference in the GM debate after a change of European rules.

Mark Buckingham, spokesman for EuropaBio, the European association for bio-industries and a panelist at the Cereals Arable Conference on Thursday, agreed that future approaches to introducing GM crops in the UK must stray away from political influences, most recently of which is nationalisation by the European Union (EU).

He said: “The changes in March which the Commission introduced meant that member states could make their own decisions on the cultivation of GM crops. But the only change in those regulations was the introduction of new powers that enabled member states to ban GM crops on non-scientific grounds, for both those who opt in and out of them.”

This, he said, meant new uncertainty, where member states could ban GM for political reasons. “Supporters of GM need to work together and look at the use of GM in feeds and the supply chain and explain it to consumers – if we can import it, why can’t we grow it?” Mr Buckingham said.

The livestock and poultry industries rely on imports of soybean and maize, which are predominantly GM produced. More two million tonnes are imported per year in the UK, with Europe importing around 30 million tonnes, the National Farmers’ Union said.

Yorkshire Wolds farmer, Paul Temple, said: “It’s really imperative to remember that we, as farmers, are really dependent on the imports of soybean and maize. This opens up a whole new campaign of labelling and where it sits within the food chain. Unfortunately we have an EU approach which is political and anti-science – our great UK science tends to disappear overseas.”

Mr Temple took part in a three-year trial of GM rapeseed in 1999 to 2001, which he said saw a yield benefit, and lower environmental impact.