GM crop rules should be eased, government tells EU

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture

Bitter harvest: this year's wheat harvest is likely to be significantly lower than last year, warned the NFU
Bitter harvest: this year's wheat harvest is likely to be significantly lower than last year, warned the NFU
Europe risks becoming a “museum of 20th century technology” unless EU rules on genetically modified (GM) crops are relaxed, government ministers have warned EU officials.

David Willetts, UK universities and science minister, told the Cheltenham Science Festival that the benefits of GM science could no longer be ignored, according to a report in The Times​.

“We believe GM crops can help make agriculture more efficient and also, just as importantly, more sustainable by, for example, reducing the use of pesticides and the use of fossil fuels,”​ said Willetts.

Willetts warned there were too many 21st-century technologies that Europe was being very slow to adopt. “One productive way forward is to have this discussion as part of a wider need for Europe to remain innovative, rather than a museum of 20th century technology,”​ he added.

Prime minister

Prime minister David Cameron and environment secretary Owen Paterson have both offered fulsome support​ for GM technology.

Multi-national science companies BASF and Monsanto have both withdrawn from GM research in Europe in recent months after frustration at Brussels’ unwillingness to back the technology.

Meanwhile, a new survey by the National Farmers Union (NFU) has revealed that the 2013 wheat harvest is likely to be significantly smaller than last year, as short-term confidence among arable farmers plumbs new depths.

The overall harvested area on respondents’ farms was nearly 30% lower than last year – echoing Home-Grown Cereals Authority suggestions that winter wheat planting area was 25% down.

“The findings follow a year of unprecedented extreme weather which has battered crops, underlining the importance of access to crop protection technology, and the need for the government’s implementation of CAP​ [Common Agricultural Policy] reform not to disadvantage English farmers,” ​said the NFU.

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