This morning, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, gave a keynote speech on the subject of GM (Genetic Modification) at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Mr Paterson said, “GM has already been used to make crops that can resist attack from specific insect pests or plant diseases. Other traits are being developed, including using scientific expertise here in the UK.
“We cannot expect to feed tomorrow’s population with yesterday’s agriculture. We have to use every tool at our disposal.”
At LEAF, we recognise the importance of innovation and technology, including modern biotechnology and developments such as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). The potential benefits to farmers and consumers need to be clearly identified and weighed against the possible risks. Risk management is paramount to the decisions being made and as the jury is still out; LEAF will continue to monitor developments. However, there are several areas that cannot be neglected.
One of these is the need for more research into GM technology. We need to be able to establish the development of plants that have greater resistance to pests and diseases, more resilience to adverse environments and develop the nutrition value of crops.
Added to this is the importance of beneficial husbandry practices and Integrated Farm Management. Rotations, safe use of inputs, cultivation choice, variety choice, good record keeping and management systems such as those advocated by LEAF are essential. GM will never be an alternative to these practices, it has the potential to be one of the tools in the box.
There is a need for rational debate on GM, bringing together researchers, farmers and consumers. At our annual President’s Event in 2011, we brought together Prof Sir David Baulcombe, FRS and Andrew Burgess, Agricultural Director of Produce World, to openly discuss plant genetics and opportunities in agriculture. You can see this discussion in the video below.
Our full position on GMO’s can be found on our website here.
What are your thoughts on GM technology? What are the big questions yet to be answered? Please give us your views in the comments section below.