Agriculture minister George Eustice has confirmed the Government is looking at ’possible future arrangements’ for GM crop regulations in the lead up to Brexit.
English farmers could soon be granted approval to grow genetically modified (GM) crops when Britain leaves the EU.
Agriculture minister George Eustice confirmed in written parliamentary answer the Government was looking at ’possible future arrangements for the regulation of genetically modified organisms’ as part of preparations for EU exit.
He added any renewed regulations would be ’science-based and proportionate’.
In nearly 20 years of the technology, only one commercial variety – MON 810, a GM-maize – has been licensed for use in Europe.
But a post-Brexit situation could be welcoming commercial production of tomatoes rich in antioxidants and blight-resistant potatoes, despite concerns from environmentalists.
Any new rules implemented by the Government are likely to be considerably less problematic than EU regulation because of the absent evidence to suggest they are unsafe to eat.
The National Institute of Agriculture Botany (NIAB) said critical issues such as market demand, the potential size of the market relative to the levels of investment required and the UK’s trading relationship with the EU must all be factored into any commercial decision to bring a GM crop to the market.
NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said: “More than ever, Britain’s farmers will need access to the latest developments in agricultural science and technology to compete on a global stage.
“Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to develop a more enabling policy and regulatory environment to harness and exploit its world leadership in plant science, attracting private sector investment, promoting technology-based exports and international research collaboration, and supporting crop-based innovation on a global basis.”
Former environment secretary Owen Paterson MP welcomed the news, saying he is ‘very strongly in favour’ of GM crops because of their ‘huge environmental gains’.
Mr Paterson said Europe’s hostility towards GM productivity has ‘left us falling behind’ and defined Europe as a ‘museum of world farming’.
"Because of the extraordinary hostility in Europe to modern technologies we haven’t got the crops to grow. Many fears from the past have been greatly reduced so we now need to use every technology we can.
"People do not want to spray their potatoes 15 times when they could have blight-resistant varieties."