Whilst the European Parliament last week voted to endorse a proposal that would allow European governments to restrict or prohibit cultivation of safe genetically modified (GM) crops, calls to allow GM crops to be cultivated in the UK–conversely–have been gaining momentum.
Earlier this month, two senior UK politicians publicly discussed their views on the benefits of GMO cultivation. At the UK’s annual Oxford Farming Conference, The Right Hon. Liz Truss, MP, the UK’s Environment Secretary, and Lord Krebs, the UK government’s advisor on climate change adaptation, both spoke out to support the scientific facts on why growing GM crops is actually a good thing–for farmers, the climate and a growing population. That is quite the list of reasons to support cultivation…
In her speech to the conference, Ms. Truss shared why she is in favour of introducing GM crops as an option for UK farmers. Simply put, Ms. Truss wants the UK agriculture sector to become competitive once more. She used the example of the US, where GM technology allows crops to be grown in a more environmentally friendly way, with less water usage and less pesticide usage, all the while providing safe products to consumers. Ms. Truss has a background in Mathematics and Economics but you don’t need her expertise to figure out why cultivation adds up for farmers and the economy.
Lord Krebs, whose tenure also included a five year stint as CEO of the UK Food Standards Agency, also spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference. In his speech, he discussed and dismissed the notion that organic farming must be better for the environment and produce more nutritious food, amongst other comments stating that “Organic farming does not mean more environmentally friendly farming.” On that point, we couldn’t agree with him more, we’ve previously blogged about the oft-touted claims that organic food is inherently better for you here). Lord Krebs also talked about using the “no-till” method as an alternative to current farming practices, a method which can be used on both conventional or biotech crops. No-till farming is a valuable and more sustainable alternative to organic farming, as it is causes lower levels of soil erosion and produces higher yields. We’ve also written about the merits of the “no-till’ on this blog previously.
Whilst GM technology is not the only tool in the toolkit when it comes to building a sustainable agriculture sector–far from it–it certainly is a valuable option to those farmers who are given the choice.
We respect the predominant sentiment in Europe over GM technology, and our focus in Europe is firmly on conventional seeds and non-GM innovation and technology. Nonetheless, like Ms. Truss and Lord Krebs, we believe that farmers should at least have the opportunity and choice to use GM technology, as should consumers. We want to help farmers produce more, better and affordable food with less, which is something many consumers want as well.
Read on below for the full articles that appeared in The Guardian and The Times: