Prince Charles has attacked GM crops for the second time in as many months, claiming that GM is not the solution to world hunger.

Delivering – by video (full version available here) – the Sir Albert Howard Memorial lecture to Indian pressure group Navdanya, Prince Charles highlighted the number of small farmer suicides in India.

These were “stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties”, he suggested.

The prince said that any GM crop would “will inevitably contaminate neighbouring fields and that the yields from GM crops were generally lower than their conventional counterparts.

“Everyone agrees that the current global food crisis is a desperate tragedy. There can be no argument there (although in my own country it is perhaps worth noting that little is being done to tackle the £10 billion worth of food which is wasted each year),” he said.

“The debate really is very simple. Do you think we can solve it by using traditional agricultural practices enhanced by research to increase yields, but within a truly sustainable framework? Or do you think that is impossible and that instead it is worth taking all the risks that I would argue are associated with GM technology?

“To me, the answer is pretty straightforward. I want to see trust being put back in individual farmers, with their knowledge of the land and their skills honed over generations, and thus helping them find the sustainable solutions which respect – rather than upset – Nature’s natural balance.”

The prince’s warning came as the NFU called for independent analysis on GM to help consumers decide whether they were for or against the technology.

The NFU said a survey by the food think tank IGD, had found that 52% of consumers remain undecided on GMs, despite five years of media debate.

“Contrary to the highly polarized debate normally portrayed in the media, and by anti-GM lobby groups, this major survey of almost 6000 consumers demonstrates that the majority remain undecided about GM. It also highlights a clear need for independent research and objective debate to allow consumers to come to an informed decision about GM food,” said NFU president Peter Kendall.

“The IGD survey found that the majority of consumers perceived a balance of risks and potential benefits from GM, including a widespread view that GM could help improve output and help feed a growing world population. This was weighed against concerns over food safety and environmental impact, both of which are legitimate issues that farmers and consumers need addressing.”

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