Government backs GM

THE GOVERNMENT is hoping to “speed up” the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK.


In an interview with the Telegraph, published today, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said GM “would be a good thing” and criticised those opposed to the controversial technology.


Hours later, support for Paterson and GM came from Downing Street, when the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said “if we can speed up a slow [European GM approval] system then we should do that”.


This public support for GM has angered campaigners, however. Friends of the Earth maintained that the country should not “gamble on GM”.


Although not illegal, to date no GM crops have been grown commercially in the British countryside. However, the coalition has allowed small-scale cultivation trials to take place.


The slow approval system in Europe has begun to frustrate the UK Government and many farmers, who argue they should be benefitting from a technology that is widely available elsewhere.


“There’s about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world,” Paterson told the Telegraph. “There isn’t a single piece of meat being served [in a typical London restaurant] where a bullock hasn’t eaten some GM feed. So it’s a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe.”


The Government is currently consulting on new agri-tech measures, including GM, as part of its Green Food Project. The findings are expected next year.


Meanwhile, public opposition, contrary to claims by anti-GM campaigners, appears to be falling.


A poll by earlier this year also found that 78% want the debate around GM foods re-opened, while just 11% want nothing to do with the technology.


Last month, the Government was forced to defend itself against accusations that it was cosying up to the big GM companies to push through their technologies. However, its pro-GM stance appears to be strengthening by the day.


“Emphatically we should be looking at GM,” said Paterson in his interview. “I’m very clear it would be a good thing. 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 Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Government’s position on GM food was that “provided it is used safely and responsibly it can deliver benefits and help address the challenge of global food security.


“We believe it should be dealt with in a safe way. Obviously there is a regulatory environment which we need to respect and we have to ensure public safety, and take decisions based on the scientific evidence.


“The Commission is currently looking at ways to make the regulatory system more efficient and more effective, and we are engaging with that because we think it would be possible to speed things up.”


Members of Footprint Forum will be gathering at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square 28th of February 2013, courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture, to debate the topic of GM. Register Here