We won’t feed the world and save the planet without GM
Recently, at the Norfolk Farming Conference, I called for new debate on GM. UK drought and global development food security make it essential that the European Union changes its opposition to Agricultural Science and GM, so that Europe and the UK can help pioneer the agricultural innovation the world is crying out for.
This point was echoed recently by Oxfam’s director of policy and campaigns Phil Bloomer, as he urged the organic movement to reconsider its anti-GM stance. He argued at the Annual Soil Association Conference that the sector should be more open and less insular in discussing the approaches needed to strengthen food security. He pointed to the debate around genetically modified (GM) crops as one area where there could be a more open debate by the organic movement.
With the world’s population set to rise to 9 billion in our lifetimes, our generation faces a historic challenge of sustainability: to double global food supply using less water, energy and chemical inputs, and using half as much land. The challenge was spelt out in no uncertain terms in the recent Foresight Report by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, who called for a new agricultural revolution of ‘sustainable intensification’.
As Britain looks for ways to build a sustainable, export led economic recovery, and define a new role in the rapidly emerging global economy, the application of our world class expertise in agriculture, nutrition and plant science to support the fast growing markets in the developing world is a major opportunity we should seize.
The global market for agricultural biotechnology is valued at over £90 billion and growing at 10-15 per cent annually. With developing nations such as the USA, China, Brazil and Argentina rapidly investing in the sector it would be madness for us to stand aside. Access to all available technology and innovation will be essential if Europe’s farmers are to remain internationally competitive and play their part in ensuring global food production keeps pace with demand.
This is NOT about a wholesale adoption of GM in the UK food chain. Consumers should be free to choose what they eat, and helped to make well informed choices based on excellent science based regulation and labeling. BUT it would be irresponsible for us to turn our back against the enormous environmental and developmental benefits of GM and other agricultural innovation, at a time when the planet desperately needs these breakthroughs for sustainable development
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