Conditional non-food crop support

SUSTAINABILITY benefits are key to public support for non-food farming, a study carried out on behalf of the Biotechnology Commission reveals.

There were fears among participants in the study, however, that non-food agriculture might be a back-door route to the introduction of GM crops.

The research was conducted by consultants Corr Willbourn through a series of workshops and seminars in urban and rural parts of the UK.

This was an in-depth study of public attitudes to non-food farming, and it found that the people who took part think non-food crops could play an important role in the future of UK agriculture.

There was one big caveat, however: GM crops.

Many felt strongly that non-food farming could be a back-door route for the introduction of GM crops into the UK, which they did not welcome.

GM became a dominant issue in the study despite the fact that many non-food uses of crops do not require it.

As commission chairman Malcolm Grant stated: “People are clearly wary of using GM in non-food as well as food agriculture, and suspicious of the motives behind its use.”

“Their threshold for acceptability of a non-food application was raised considerably by the involvement of GM, and only overwhelming benefits, such as a cure for a major disease, were thought acceptable in this context.”

“Objections to the use of GM organisms in closed conditions were less strong, and people generally felt that GM research should continue,” according to Prof Grant.

The study also showed great concern for the traditional British countryside, which was thought to be under threat from many different pressures.

To a lesser degree it also showed concern for the future of farmers, who were seen as the key to the survival of the countryside.

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