July 13, 2011


UK farmers insist on GM crops cultivation



UK farmers in the North East said they hope the government will pay no heed to new authority that would stop the cultivation of genetically modified crops.


Euro MPs, against the advice of the European Food Standards Agency, have voted to allow countries the right to stop the non-scientific use of GM.


But agricultural businesses in the region said they would like to see the potential for technology to be properly explored and the subject better explained. Jack Storey, who farms between Morpeth and Ponteland, said GM could be both very helpful for farmers and beneficial for the environment.


"If you are not going into the fields spraying as much then you are not using as much diesel," he said of pest resistant crops.


"And here in the North East there is a disease affecting oilseed rape which you are obliged to spray for when they are flowering.


"But the flowers are yellow and attract bees.


"So if you could make the plants immune to the disease, it would be possibly better for the bees.


"Breeding using traditional methods can take years and years and you can end up with unforeseen consequences.


"Years ago, they tried to create a docile bee that would produce lots of honey but what they got was nasty 'killer' bees that produced a lot less. Rather than trial and error why not just change one gene? If it is one gene and you know for example it will make it taste horrible to aphids, then that might move them to nearby grasses, so reducing the amount of pesticides farmers have to use.


"And if it is just one thing you change, it is not really going to change the rest of the plant.


"I think it was Professor John Beddington, the government's chief scientist, who said farmers have to adapt to use less water and make better use of our land.


"GM could offer that solution."


Dr Helen Ferrier, the National Farmers' Union chief science adviser, said the MEPs' report contained a variety of measures that could seriously hinder progress towards sustainable agriculture. "The measures proposed could have a serious and detrimental consequence for farmers, consumers and scientists on all sides of the GM debate," said Ferrier.


"We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence.


"Many MEPs have expressed a fear about the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops.


"Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together.


"However, this must be based on sound science and market mechanisms to allow farmers the choice over which crops to grow.


"Farmers need all the tools available to them to contribute to 'sustainable intensification'.


"With the world population set to grow to nine billion by 2050, Europe must be in a position to contribute towards global food security."

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