Heath hits out at 'international hypocrisy' on GM
FARMING Minister David Heath has hit out at the ‘international hypocrisy’ he claims exists over the rules surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops.
Mr Heath said he had always been ‘extremely cautious’ about GM technology because of the ‘need to be clear about the human health and environmental implications’.
But, speaking at the International Food Exhibition, in London, this week he said the evidence was there that GM crops had been grown over a ‘very large part of the world for a very long time without those effects being manifest’. Specific GM applications therefore ought to be considered on their own merit,” he said.
“There is a moral duty to look at every possibility to see if there are things we can do safely and better than we do now to meet the challenge of feeding a hugely increased population with sustainable techniques,” he said.
He contrasted the level of GM feed currently imported into the EU with the restrictive rules on growing GM crops in Europe.
“We have an international hypocrisy at the moment about the huge amount of GM soya which is grown and fed to animals around the world and imported into European countries. I just don’t believe it is sustainable just to close our eyes to that,” he said.
“We have a science and technology base in this country capable of doing something excellent in this area. If we can do so safely, we ought to be at the forefront of that technology, not stifled by rules which frankly may not make any logical sense.”
Mr Heath went on to accuse the national media of being ‘very poor at understanding science’. This had resulted in the perpetuation ‘scare stories’ depicting GM as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’, based on the possibility of even the smallest risk of negative effects. He said the media and legislators both needed to improve their understanding of risk.
Former newspaper editor Rosie Boycott acknowledged that the media was partly to blame in misrepresenting the risks associated with GM crops.
But she said her concern when it comes to GM technology was the power held by one company, Monsanto, which ‘rightly made people very suspicious of the technology’. She said there were examples where Monsanto had behaved ‘incredibly badly’ towards farmers in the past.
“That said we have been practising types of GM throughout history and to turn our back on it is crazy,” she said.