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Feeding the world: Is GM the answer?

GM crops were the talking point at the Three Counties Farming Conference farming debate as the UK prepares to leave the EU.


Lauren   Dean

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Lauren   Dean
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68 per cent of farmers were in agreement.
68 per cent of farmers were in agreement.
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Feeding the world: Is GM the answer?

Genetically modified (GM) crops are without a doubt the answer to feeding the world, farming experts told a GM debate.

 

It came following a written parliamentary answer from UK Farming Minister George Eustice earlier in the month that the Government was looking at ‘possible future arrangements for the regulation of genetically modified organisms’ as part of preparations for EU exit.

 

Adviser on GM oil crops Professor Denis Murphy said Britain was ‘vastly out of line’ with the rest of the world in terms of policy and the opinion on the use of GM crops.

 

However, he said he was glad to see the ‘sceptical attitude’ was starting to change.

 

“Scientific farming is the key to our survival in the face of many challenges of the 21st century,” Professor Murphy told the Three Counties Farming Conference.

 

By the end of the session more than two thirds of farmers in the audience were in agreement that GM crops were the answer to ’feeding the world’.

 

Regulation

Agricultural economist Graham Brookes spoke about research he had undertaken on where and why farmers use GM crops over the last 18 years.

 

He found there was ‘no denying’ the results when comparing yield gains against cost savings.

 

He said GM technology showed a reduction in production risks, a decreased need for insecticide use and therefore more opportunities for environmentally friendly farming methods.

 

Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, also championed this idea and said there was a need for robust policies that ‘enable and accommodate climate change’.

 

She said regulation had ’been a barrier’ but praised GM crops for their ability to use science and technology to improve resilience and competition in farming.

 

Former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas had previously spoken out against GM crops in the name of the environment, claiming they were an ’unnatural’ process.

 

But the conference saw him encourage the conversation with suggestions the positives of GM crops could not be denied.

 

Mr Lynas said farmers should have the choice about using GM crops but that the environmental community had the ‘whole issue back to front’.

 

He highlighted the fact there are 850 million malnourished people in the world and GM crops could help increase food production to ’literally feed the world’.

 


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Delegates were asked to vote yes, no or undecided towards the issue both on arrival and on their departure:

Yes No Undecided
Before 58% 30% 12%
After 68% 22% 10%

 

 

 

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