29 January 1999

Economics favour GMOs

IT MAY take a decade for the UK to accept GMO crops including maize, but competition on world markets will add to economic arguments for their acceptance as margins come under more pressure.

Thats according to Gregoire Berthe, director general of French plant breeder Limagrains biotechnology division, who says GMO maize could be widely available in the EU from next year. This will depend on regulators accepting varieties being put forward. The company expects to introduce varieties in France later this year, aiming for Netherlands and Germany shortly after, and the UK and Belgium in 2001.

Mr Berthe urges producers to wake up to the opportunities GMO crops provide. Herbicide and pest resistant varieties are just the first generation; a second generation is being developed which uses GMO techniques to improve crop feeding qualities. Eventually, a third generation may produce pharmaceuticals, he says.

"GMOs will gain widespread use, of that there is no doubt," he says. Reaction from domestic producers over GMO safety is unwarranted; its safer than normal breeding selection because its regulated, Mr Berthe suggests.

Aside from producers, breeders also have much to gain from GMOs; the opportunity to boost seed royalties. Some are already using DNA techniques to develop seed which is sterile, overcoming a major concern of breeder – re-use of farm saved seed – he says.