11 March 1999
GM crops can blight your land — RICS
By FWi staff
FARMERS who grow genetically modified (GM) crops risk a fall in land values, claims a new report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The current debate surrounding biotechnology and the concerns for land management raise the possible need for a register of land used to grow GM crops, says the report.
The RICS report has been sent to the Office of Science and Technology and several other government departments – including that of cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham.
It was compiled as part of the RICS response to a request for views on the governments review of the framework for overseeing developments in biotechnology.
The report warns that tenant farmers, as well as farmer-landowners, could be forced to pick up the bill for any shortfall in land values as a result of growing GM crops.
“The growing of GM crops on let land could conceivably be deemed a breach of terms of the tenancy agreement under the requirements to farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry,” it warns.
“This may affect the value of the landlords reversionary interest and tenants could face claims for delapidation.”
The report says that recent consumer concern over the safety of GM crops could mean that farmers and growers may want to market their products as GM free.
But it warns of “potential difficulties” and legal claims against growers whose GM-free crops are cross-pollinated by GM crops on nearby farms.
The report calls for a public register of GM crop plantings so that any commercial cultivation is traceable by a thorough recording system.
“This is an issue that the government will need to address,” says the report.
The RICS represents the majority of rural and agricultural land in the UK and has over 100,000 members across the world.
Julian Sayers, chairman of the RICS countryside policies panel, said that the recent debate over GM crops was certain to have an effect on the value of farms.
“The way GM crops are being portrayed is certain to have an effect on land values,” he said. “I can see benefits but I can also see a downside.
“My real concern is that a lack of consumer confidence will have a negative effect on the farming industry at a time when it needs it least.”