The European Union needs to be more willing to embrace new technologies if European farmers are going to help meet the challenge of securing global food supplies.
Julian Little, Agricultural Biotechnology Council chairman, said Europe needed to “get its act together” in terms of agricultural science and innovation.
Speaking at a committee meeting at the House of Lords in London on Wednesday (26 January), Dr Little said Europe needed to think about the potential of new technology if it was to meet the challenges set out by the Foresight Report.
“Climate change is going to put Europe in a position where it’s got to be far more responsible in terms of food production than in the past,” he told the EU Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment evidence session.
“Europe will be affected less by climate change than most places, so there’s a very high imperative to get our act together when it comes to food production.”
Dr Little said the EU was always behind the rest of the world when it came to agricultural legislation, particularly in terms of pesticides and genetically-modified crops.
“We are in a situation where we want to be producing more but we have strange legislation which doesn’t help with that,” he added.
“When it comes to new technologies that can significantly improve ability to do agriculture Europe is at odds with the rest of the world in recognising the need to move forward.”
But Pete Riley, campaign director of lobby group GM Freeze, said the majority of crops suitable for European farming were non-GM.
“What we need is a way of thinking about farming that’s more integrated,” he added. “We need the Common Agricultural Policy to help get new technologies out to farmers so they can adapt quickly to change.”