UK government talks up need for GM

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The development of genetically-modified crop technology has an important role to play in helping UK farmers produce more food in a sustainable way, according the UK farm minister.

David Heath said he had been persuaded that developing GM crops was essential and that they UK should not be held back by EU member states who did not back the technology.

Speaking at the Cereals Event in Lincolnshire yesterday, Heath said the Westminster government was determined to take forward its agri-tech strategy, and that GM technology had to be part of it.

“We see no areas of taboo,” he said during a debate on European red tape and the UK’s agri-science strategy.

“GM isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the policy, but it’s a component part and I am persuaded that it is an important route to take.”

Heath said researchers in the UK had to be given the opportunity to develop GM technology to find solutions to challenges such as climate change, as well as to provide evidence that biotechnology is safe.

“We believe it is in the interest of the EU to embrace technology and to take it forward provided we can be assured that whatever emerges is safe in terms of health, the environment and benefits farmers,” he said.

“The debate around GM needs to be about specific applications of the technology and backed by evidence about where it can be used.

“We need to convince people that the same level of care is taken to licence them as it would be to licence pharmaceuticals.”

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said it was vital sustained investment was made in research so that decisions around GM could be based on scientific evidence rather than emotion.

“We need another green revolution and I am convinced that biotechnology can deliver some of the revolution we require,” he said.

Raymond said he was extremely nervous around some of the decision made in Europe over the past months, particularly around the ban on neonicitinoids.