Genetically modified (GM) animal feed stuffs have become so widespread that it is increasingly difficult to avoid them, Meurig Raymond, NFU deputy president told Food Manufacture’s Business Leaders’ Forum.
“It is becoming impossible for the livestock industry – the white meat industry, pigs and broiler producers ‒ to source non GM protein on the global market,” Raymond told delegates at the event, organised by Food Manufacture in central London on Tuesday (January 15).
“And, if you can source GM-free feed, it is selling at a £100/t premium over GM. So if we are going to remain in these austere times then it is important that we have the ability to source this product. That is the first challenge before we start debating whether we are going to grow GM in the UK.”
GM science will be one of the subjects under discussion at a free hour-long webinar to take place at 11am GMT on Thursday, January 24. More details can be found here and at the end of this article.
The supply of GM-free feed will be become even more difficult from June or July this year, warned Raymond. From this summer, supplies of GM-free feed from Brazil will become even more difficult and expensive to source, reflecting the farmers’ decision to plant GM varieties, he said.
'Embrace biotechnology and GM'
Meanwhile, Raymond praised the outspoken support for GM from Owen Paterson, secretary of state at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). “It was great to hear the secretary of State speak at the Oxford Farming Conference [in early January] on the need to embrace biotechnology and GM."
Raymond added that farmers’ confidence − which had reached an all-time high last May – “had fallen off a cliff” after eight months of bad weather. Raymond added that the weather had affected not just the quality and quantity of the last cereal harvest but delayed – and in some cases prevented – the planting crops due for harvest this summer.
Earlier this month, Premier Foods confirmed that last year’s harvest wash-out would force the firm to drop its pledge to make Hovis bread with exclusively British wheat.
Forum chairman Paul Wilkinson’s summary of the food manufacturing year noted: “GM won support from DEFRA and some converted sceptics and the wheat crop trial [at Rothamsted Research] survived all the protesters.”
Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, admitted to “frustration about the government’s lack of leadership on the really big issues” such as food security.
“The good news is that we have achieved [from government] a level of understanding that food and drink manufacturing is the single sector that has achieved sustained growth,” said Leech.
But she added politicians didn’t seem to know what to do with that understanding.
'Weak organic marketing'
The annual event − sponsored by legal firm Stephenson Harwood, business improvement specialist Applied Acumen and recruitment expert Goldteam − heard that UK organic manufacturers were suffering from “weak marketing” and the nation’s continuing economic woes.
Watch out for more video and text news from the forum next week.
Taking part in the free webinar will be Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist with the Food Standards Agency, Sue Davies, chief policy adviser with consumers watchdog Which? and Nicole Patterson, consumer analyst with Leatherhead Food Research.
Each speaker will deliver a 10-minute presentation on a different aspect of food science and technology before taking live questions from those who register to attend the webinar.
Organised by the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) and FoodManufacture.co.uk, the webinar titled ‘Food fact and fiction, separating science from myth’ will take place at 11am GMT on Thursday, January 24, 2013.
Book your free place for this hour-long webinar here .
During the session, you will be able to put a question directly to our expert panel.
Alternatively, email questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org .