OFC13: Soil Association dismisses GM food security claims
THE Soil Association has dismissed the suggestion that genetically modified (GM) crops hold the key to future food security as a ‘red herring’.
On Thursday, environmentalist Mark Lynas, who had spent years campaigning against GM crops, delivered a passionate plea at the Oxford Farming Conference for the barriers to be removed to free farmers to grow the crops.
Insisting there was ‘rock-solid scientific consensus’ on the benefits of GM, he urged opponents of the technology to ‘get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably’.
Earlier, Defra Secretary Owen Paterson called for a ‘balanced’ debate on the risks and benefits of GM crops, which he said offered potentially ‘great opportunities’.
Speaking from the conference, Tom Macmillan, the Soil Association’s innovation director, said: “Banging on about GM crops, as Lynas did, is a red herring.”
“Farmers and the public have been promised the earth on GM yet the results to date have been poor. The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.
“US Government figures show pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. Lynas, Paterson and other GM enthusiasts must beware of opening floodgates to real problems like this.”
Clare Oxborrow, senior food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth, which was singled out for criticism by Mr Lynas, also insisted GM crops are ‘not the solution to the food challenges we face’.
“They are largely being developed to benefit multinational biotech firms that are gaining control of the seed industry, not to feed poor people in developing countries.
“World food production needs a radical overhaul, but this should be based on less intensive practices that increase agricultural diversity, deliver resilience to the impacts of climate change and benefit local communities.
However, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (abc) backed the Government’s ‘pragmatic approach’ to technologies, including GM.
Abc chair Dr Julian Little, said: “The UN forecasts that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, requiring a 70 per cent increase in global food production. UK research into agricultural technologies is addressing this very real challenge today, and GM crops are already delivering higher yields in 29 countries around the world.
“But UK consumers have, until very recently, been denied a rational, fact-based public discussion on the role of GM and other agricultural technologies in the food chain.
He said Mr Paterson’s speech was a ‘welcome reinforcement of the need to involve consumers in the global food security challenge; promoting the need for many different agricultural innovations, their benefits, and the strict safety regime for new crop technologies’.
“UK scientists, farmers and businesses throughout the food chain are currently missing out on the benefits of agricultural innovation. Giving consumers greater confidence in the science and safety of agricultural technologies will allow them to make an informed decision on the future role for such innovations in the UK,” he said.