GM maize MON810©Sioa Press/Rex Shutterstock

Regulations preventing UK farmers from planting genetically modified crops should be overhauled to make sure decisions over the technology are based on science rather than politics, according to MPs.

A report by the cross-party Science and Technology Committee says current GM regulations are not fit for purpose and prevent farmers from being able to produce as much food as they are capable of.

It says a new system to regulate emerging technologies needs to be established, and that politics needs to be taken out of the decision-making process.

“For the sake of our farmers, consumers and the UK’s world-leading science sector we must repatriate national decision-making on food and crop safety.”
Andrew Miller

In the report, published on Thursday (26 February), the committee also criticises Defra for failing to properly lead the debate about GM crop technology.

It says it needs to establish an information hub to ensure the public has access to accurate information and can have a wider debate on science. 

Labour MP Andrew Miller, chairman of the committee, said opposition to GM crops was largely based on politics rather than evidence.

He said the science was clear that GM crops posed no more risk than those using conventional techniques, but their use was being blocked by regulations in desperate need of being overhauled.

“A regulatory system which can take decades to reach a decision cannot possibly be considered fit for purpose,” he said.

“The amendment to EU law to allow individual countries to ban the growth of GM crops in their own territories, without insisting other countries do the same, could potentially help break the stalemate. 

“But it does not go far enough in ensuring that other member states can access crops that have passed the risk assessment process.”

Mr Miller said shared regulation should protect member states from unsafe products, and not unjustifiably restrict the choices of domestic governments.

“For the sake of our farmers, consumers and the UK’s world-leading science sector we must repatriate national decision-making on food and crop safety.”

Defra minister Liz Truss said the government wanted to see the UK embrace scientific advances such as GM crop technology.

But Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said there was little public interest in allowing farmers to use GM, and that concern about the technology was growing.