Farmers and consumers disagree on GM

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The majority of British farmers say they would be happy to grow genetically-modified (GM) crops, despite almost half of consumers saying they had negative views of the technology.

A survey of more than 600 British producers found 61 per cent would use GM crops if it were legal, while almost half thought it should be used to maximise output and profitability.

Almost one in five said the biggest advantages would be the reduced environmental impact and 16 per cent thought it would put them on a level playing field with farmers overseas who are already growing GM crops.

However, a separate survey of more than 2,000 adults found that 46 per cent did not feel positive about GM food and only a fifth were willing to support it.

Given a choice, just 3 per cent said they would prefer to buy GM produce, with the majority (67 per cent) stating they would prefer to buy conventional food. About a quarter said they would prefer to buy organic.

The YouGov poll also found that while 22 per cent thought it was a good idea for the government to promote the adoption of GM food, 43 per cent were completely against the idea.

Barclays Bank, which sponsored the farmer survey, said the research showed that more debate was needed around GM technology to ensure there was better understanding on both sides of the debate.

“We are clearly seeing a distinction between those farmers in the UK willing to use GM and the desires of consumers,” said Martin Redfearn, Barclay’s head of agriculture, as he unveiled the results.

“The research shows consumers are still against the idea of GM crops and it is up to all these involved – from the scientist and farmer through to the retailer and consumer – to communicate the advantages and disadvantages of this technology to see whether it will become common practice in Europe.”

Meurig Raymond, English NFU deputy president, said it was consumers who needed to be convinced about the benefits of GM technology as GM crops were a key tool in helping farmers feed a growing world population.

“It’s only a matter of time before we see GM crops on British farms,” he said. “We need to bring the decision-making back to science.”