Scotland runs the risk of becoming an ‘agricultural museum’ if the Government continues its opposition to GM cropping, according to author and researcher Mark Lynas.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference last week, Mr Lynas said the SNP’s clean and green policy was a ‘bad joke’ which put image before reality.
He also described the EU’s anti-GM stance as a ‘global embarrassment’.
“Nobody is saying Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) will feed the world, but they have an important role to play”, he said.
“When I spoke here in 2013 there were 775 million undernourished people in the world, and now there are 815 million.”
Mr Lynas caused a sensation when he spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference in 2013.
He had until then been an anti-GM activist, publicly campaigning against uptake of the technology, but after looking at the science more closely he changed his mind completely.
“Do not worry, I have not changed my mind again, but I have become increasingly concerned the argument has not moved on”, he said.
“If anything, views have become more entrenched.”
According to Mr Lynas, GM cropping has the potential to reduce chemical applications significantly and could also be the key to developing non-leguminous plants capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere.
He said: These things should be happening now, but instead the contribution of GMOs is still marginal, trivial even.
“Partly this is because GMOs have become blocked, and not just in the developing world. Instead of Bangladeshi farmers welcoming GMOs, they are rejecting them because of a myth that they paralyse children. So they have gone back to hand-spraying their crops.”
The way forward, Mr Lynas suggested, was for more publicly-owned science and fewer patents, coupled with a more respectful approach to organic farming which allowed room for an ethical debate.
As to the Scottish situation, he argued there should be more leeway.
“If famers do not want to grow GM barley or blight-free GM potatoes, then they do not have to, but they should have the choice.
“At the moment the Scottish Government is tying scientists’ hands just to protect a green image.”
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