A Scarborough farmer has highlighted the importance of carrying out more testing following the Environment Secretary’s endorsement of GM crops.
In a recent speech, Owen Paterson made the strongest call yet for the adoption of the technology, saying that GM has significant benefits for farmers, consumers and the environment.
He also said the next generation of GM crops offers the “most wonderful opportunities to improve human health.”
Scarborough farmer John Swiers, branch chairman of the NFU, said he is in favour of moving forward with GM crops - but only if enough testing is done first.
He explained: “My general view is that as long as there is chance to do the correct tests and there are no adverse effects, it can only be a good thing.
“It’s very important to get testing done, but the process is being hampered. Every time there is a trial site, there are protesters.”
Mr Swiers added that lots of people are actually eating GM foods, such as soya, already and that it is a more efficient way to grow crops.
However, he said: “Trials are needed because we don’t want to end up with a food scare 10 or 20 years down the line.”
The environment secretary has never made a secret of his support for GM technology. Mr Paterson said it was being adopted by the rest of the world and the UK and Europe risked being left behind.
“The use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make GMOs even safer than conventional plants and food,” he said.
“The EU chief scientist Anne Glover has said it pretty bluntly - there is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health on animal health or on environmental health.”
NFU President Peter Kendall said he was glad to see the Government leading the discussion on GM technology.
He continued: “I applaud Owen Paterson for the leadership he is showing on this issue.
“The NFU agrees that the UK, which is the natural home for science research, should be at the forefront of providing agricultural solutions not watching from the sidelines.
“Rightly so, farmers fear being left behind. As Mr Paterson said, I also want British farmers to be able to develop the latest technologies so they can reap economic and environmental benefits.
“I welcome his commitment to getting the EU approvals system working. The Environment Secretary also asked all interested parties to help him and said he would back them in return. I, and the NFU, will take up this challenge.”
Last year about 170 million hectares of GM crops were cultivated in 28 countries. Advocates argue that about half of the GM crops grown worldwide are produced by resource-poor farmers.
Apart from the US, the world’s leading growers are Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India.