Genetically-modified crops should not be made available to farmers without proper training on how to handle the technology, according to one Nuffield scholar.
Kevin Nolan, a 2010 Nuffield scholar and arable farmer from Killkenny, said GM production could be an important tool for arable farmers across Europe in future, but producers needed to understand the technology and “not abuse it”.
Presenting his report, “GM crops and their benefits for the environment and Europe,” at the Nuffield Ireland conference in Killkenny on 13 January, Mr Nolan said travelling to South America and the United States had led him to believe the EU was missing out by not having access to GM crops.
Reduced inputs and higher yields had allowed farmers in countries like Argentina to become more productive and competitive than farmers in Europe, he said.
But he said negative consumer opinion toward the technology would never change in Europe if farmers were handed the technology without thorough checks and measures in place.
“We are constantly bombarded with bad things about GM, but it means greatly-reduced inputs and growing costs, more consistent yield and improvement in the environment because of reduced synthetic products,” he said.
“We have lost focus in the debate in Europe. In the US, GM has become normal and accepted by consumers.
“We need to work out how we can have a rational debate about it and needs to be through proper research and proof that farmers can handle the technology responsibly.”