Chief scientist calls for more GM crops

European governments and farmers have a “moral responsibility” to grow GM crops if the world is to feed itself in the years ahead, according to government chief scientific adviser Sir David King.

Delivering a keynote speech to the Foundation for Science and Technology this week, Sir David said the world would need all the food it could get to feed over 9bn people by 2050.

“We will only do this with the assistance of a third green revolution and GM technologies will be crucial in delivery of this.”

Climate change and dwindling water supplies would put increasing pressure on food supplies. In future the emphasis would be on getting the most “crop per drop”.

Sir David’s comments were welcomed by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, which also sees GM crops as essential to cope with increasing population, water scarcity and food shortages.

“GM science and technology provides huge potential benefits and we should be grabbing these opportunities with both hands,” said NIAB chief executive Wayne Powell.

But Sir David’s comments were condemned by Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow. “The vast majority of GM crops are grown in monocultures and are used to feed animals, not people. Intensive meat and livestock farming is itself a significant contributor to climate change and biodiversity loss.”

The debate in the UK came in the same week as EU farm ministers re-examined the GM issue at their monthly meeting in Brussels.

* See this week’s Farmers Weekly (30 November) for full report.

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