The UK could face worrying consequences if GM technology is continually shunned, prime minister David Cameron’s scientific advisers have warned.
Mr Cameron’s advisory team stated that more field-scale trials and fewer restrictions on GM crops were needed if UK farming was to remain competitive.
Authors, Sir Mark Walport and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell outlined how GM technologies could help UK farmers manage their land, reduce costs and optimise crop production in a country with limited agricultural acreage
They also suggested the EU regulatory process needed to be rebalanced to reflect a body of growing evidence in favour of GM.
The recent withdrawal by BASF of EU applications relating to the use of a GM product, blight resistant potato, was highlighted as stark illustration of the problems faced by UK agriculture.
And they said there should be more confidence in GM products pointing to growing evidence showing them to be as safe as their conventional counterparts.
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The NFU welcomed the advisers’ report as reasoned and sensible.
The union’s chief science adviser Dr Helen Ferrier said: “We welcome this reasoned approach to GM which sensibly recognises the benefits that this technology can bring to help the industry to produce more food for a growing population.
“We’ve long said that farmers must have access to the best tools to increase their productivity, resilience and profitability, and compete in the global marketplace.”
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She added: “As well as the potential to grow nutritionally enhanced crops for direct consumer benefit, we are convinced that enabling farmers to achieve ‘sustainable intensification’ in their own particular farming system, including reducing reliance on chemistry, has both societal and environmental benefit.”
But Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning, said any decision to make England a ‘GM country’ would leave English farmers at a huge economic disadvantage.
“England, along with possibly one or two other European Members States, risks getting a reputation as the GM centre of Europe, which will lead to our farmers losing export markets to the rest of Europe, and indeed to most of the rest of the world.”