Leader comment: Time for change on GM crops

The Princess Royal has spoken out in favour of the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, arguing the technology has real benefits. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The Princess Royal has spoken out in favour of the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, arguing the technology has real benefits. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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So the debate over genetically modified crops again comes to the fore with Princess Anne saying the crops have important benefits for providing food and health benefits for animals and she would be open to growing them on her own land.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today she would be happy to use GM for crops and livestock on her own farming estate, Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, and she said: “To say we mustn’t go there ‘just in case’ is probably not a practical argument.”

Her thoughts probably do not add much new to the long-running debate, but she’s right. And Scotland’s former chief scientific officer, Professor Anne Glover, is right to back her.

There are roughly 180 million hectares world wide growing GM crops. Countries doing it include the United States, Brazil, India, Canada, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, and Sudan. In 2015 19 of the 28 nations in the European Union issued orders prohibiting the cultivation of biotech crops within their borders.

It seems that the countries with the most mouths to feed and some of the greatest challenges around food see the practical benefits provided by these crops outweigh the potential and theoretical risks to the environment or humans.

The Scottish Government is against the cultivation of GM crops because it believes they “could damage Scotland’s rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. It would damage Scotland’s image as a land of food and drink”.

It seems that unscientific stance is a luxury the Scottish Government thinks we can afford at the moment, but it has to be wondered what that decision says about us as a nation.

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