Blog: GM foods are safe!


Let’s now allow British farmers the chance to use the technology.

Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science adviser gives her perspective on the new Royal Society Q&A on genetically modified foods and argues that British farmers would be more resilient, sustainable and competitive with GM technology.

She writes:

To those of us working in the world of genetic modification (GM) for many years, there were no surprises when we read another article, in The Times newspaper, that “genetically modified crops are safe to eat and cause no more damage to the environment than conventional strains, according to the Royal Society.”

See also: Royal Society calls for review of European GM ban

GM foods are safe - who knew?! The issue is that most people have forgotten all about GM, or they just don't think about it. Consumer surveys show widespread ambivalence. Even the BBC reporting is not accurate - GM foods are sold, they are clearly labelled, they are in British supermarkets and British livestock are fed on GM feed. In a knowledge vacuum, misinformation can easily proliferate.

It was interesting to also read about a big US review of the science in the Times article last week that after 20 years of cultivation there is no evidence of any risks to human health from the use of genetic engineering in crops and no evidence of environmental problems caused by the GM nature of a crop. 
Nearly 450 million acres of GM crops were grown in 28 countries last year. The crops are widely used across the world and are now an established part of the global food and animal feed supply. It is a matter of great concern and frustration that the EU’s dysfunctional regulatory system means that GM crops are not grown in the UK.   British farmers need to have the choice to fully harness this technology to produce safe food of higher quality, more efficiently and with a lower environmental impact.   
With this technology, British farmers would be more resilient, sustainable, competitive and more able to put British food on British plates. 

So the Royal Society’s latest project is simply a welcome reminder of the overwhelming scientific evidence that GM is a safe technology, and that it offers significant benefits to British farmers. The Royal Society's project to explain the science to the general public is an important part of the jigsaw. But there are still missing pieces: The regulatory process is seriously broken, and the legacy of relentless anti-GM campaigns is still with us. This discourages investment in solutions to major challenges in food production, environmental protection and nutrition, and this is a crying shame.

Last edited on: 25:05:2016

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  • Posted by: Bob PhelpsPosted on: 26/05/2016 13:10:36

    Comment: GM crop acreage stalled at 180 million hectares, in 28 countries, by 18 million farmers, then fell last year. In contrast, 1 billion GM-free farmers 160 GM-free countries farm 1.2 billion hectares. Six North and South American countries grow over 90% of all GM soy, corn, canola, cotton and sugarbeet and over 90% of these tolerate being sprayed with Roundup weed killer. GM's cut-and-paste techniques are too simple to deliver any more of the complex traits that were promised - drought and salt tolerance, nitrogen fixation in grains and Omega-3 abundant canola. GM crops do not increase yields and a comparison of EU (non-GM) and US (GM) production shows the US is well outclassed: Public agricultural R&D funds should be applied to more promising lines of conventional plant breeding and other research.
  • Posted by: Shaun KrijnenPosted on: 04/06/2016 09:48:44

    Comment: I have always been worried that the use of GM would diminish crop strains in favour of a few varieties, controlled by fewer companies. The idea that our food is no longer controlled by the farmer and nature, but by multi billion dollar corporations should at least make you question the end game. As Bob has pointed out, growing GM on good arable land makes no sense if conventional crop cultivation achieves the same goals. Where GM would have a place is being able to grow in areas currently uncultivateable due to harsh environmental conditions.
  • Posted by: David ButlerPosted on: 06/06/2016 07:01:37

    Comment: GM crops will play an important role in the future especially in developing climate change tolerant crops. GM also has potential environmental benefits in reducing the need and use of agrochemical products. Unfortunately however in Europe the anti-GM lobby groups are currently so powerful and public resentment so high that in these times of global oversupply of nearly all commodities GM is not going to be considered favourably. When the day comes that food prices have skyrocketed and supermarket shelves aren't full to bursting (and its only a matter of when) GM will finally be endorsed and accepted.

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