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10 December 2012 14:00:19|

Paterson backs UK GM crops


Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has given his support to genetically modified (GM) food production in the UK.
Paterson said GM crops, which are currently only produced small-scale and not available commercially, would have 'real environmental benefits' and dismissed criticism as 'nonsense'.
Supporters argue GM would increase yields and reduce pesticide usage.
"The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you've got to do is sell the real environmental benefits" the Environment secretary said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
The comments follow a meeting held in June by the GM industry's Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) which was attended by ministers and government officials.
Critics of GM have said Paterson's statements were 'factually inaccurate and ignores the UK Government's own data from feed trials that showed GM crops harm wildlife'.
"Mr Paterson seems to be formulating policy from an evidence base provided by the agri-biotech industry and ignoring the Government’s own data showing GM harms wildlife" said Pete Riley of GM Freeze.
"He needs to consult more widely with people who understand the evidence."
Critics have highlighted the problems of herbicide intolerance, superbugs and wildlife threats. Those against the introduction of GM production say pesticide use in the US is higher than before GM.
But Paterson dismissed the criticisms. He said GM crops were already being used worldwide on a large scale and people were already eating GM food unwittingly.
"I'm very clear it would be a good thing," he said.
"So you'd discuss it within government, you'd discuss it at a European level and you'd need to persuade the public."
Currently, the government is looking into new measures to push farming technologies forward in the UK and that David Cameron would support GM at the "appropriate moment".
"What we farmers need is a food production system that provides safe healthy food that our customers want to buy, provides the farmer with a decent return on time and investment and delivers genuine environmental and social benefits in the countryside" said Lincolnshire farmer Pete Lundgren.
But Professor Anne Glover said Europe could only achieve sustainable intensification if we become more 'open-minded.'
"What we do now will shape what happens in 2050," said Professor Glover.
"We do need to improve crop yields and we need to improve wastage before harvest. Farming needs to have less chemical and water input. This has to be achievable and we will achieve it, but we need to be more open minded about how we achieve it."
Professor Glover referred specifically to European attitudes towards GM technology.
"If we just looked at the evidence base, we would have GM in the EU without a doubt. GM crops are subject to more scrutiny than any other type of agriculture," she said, adding: "There is no substantiated evidence that I have ever seen that GM crops are harmful to the environment, animals or people".
But Pete Riley commented: "Millions of people go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food while millions of others are sick and obese because they are not able to afford a healthy diet. GM crops do nothing to address these fundamental problems."

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