NFU conference debates GM crop future

Promoting the public benefits of GM technology must be prioritised if British farmers are to gain access to it. That was the message to delegates at an NFU conference examining the ‘when, what and how’ of GM crops on British farms.

Delegates at the conference in Peterborough heard how GM crops are now grown on 181.5 million hectares of land worldwide and used by 18 million farmers. This is in stark contrast to the situation in the European Union where, despite 20 years of the technology, only one commercial variety, a GM-maize, is currently being grown.

NFU Deputy President Minette Batters chaired the conference and said: “GM crops are already part of the food supply chain and have the potential to be a big part of British agriculture’s future. The conference was about the NFU helping its members lead an informed debate on the topic. Open discussion in the industry is absolutely vital if British farming is to have access to this technology.

“GM is a powerful plant breeding technology which can help produce better crops – British farmers must have the choice to access the best tools to increase their productivity, resilience, profitability and competitiveness.

“The market, led by sound information, must ultimately decide if GM crops are grown here. The NFU has been urging regulators at an EU and UK level to base their decisions on sound science and evidence and there must be no exception for GM.”

NFU combinable crops board chairman Mike Hambly who attended the conference said: “If British farmers are to continue to produce safe and healthy food in a sustainable way, and remain competitive, it’s vital that we’re not excluded from the latest technology.

“This conference has offered an excellent opportunity to discuss the benefits that crop biotechnology might bring, and to hear from farmers in other countries who are already growing GM crops. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

“Despite all the benefits we’ve heard about we have to ask what’s in it for our consumers and we have to get that message across. We need to move forward in an informed and positive way and try and regain some common sense in this debate.”

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