GM crop benefits hailed in independent study

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

GM cereals and oilseeds could harvest a range of benefits, the report claims
GM cereals and oilseeds could harvest a range of benefits, the report claims

Related tags: Agriculture

Genetically modified (GM) cereals and oilseeds could benefit consumers, farmers and the animal feed supply chain, while boosting UK competitiveness in the global market, claims new independent research.

Without the benefits of GM crops, the nation’s agriculture industry will wither, concluded the report, commissioned by Home Grown Cereals Authority and the cereals and the oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The researchers concluded: “We (the project team) feel that the adoption of currently available and appropriate GM crops in the UK in the years ahead would benefit farmers, consumers and the feed chain without causing environmental damage.

“Furthermore, unless British farmers are allowed to grow GM crops in the future, the competitiveness of farming in the UK is likely to decline relative to that globally.”

Nutritional benefits

For consumers, GM technology could deliver special wheats suitable for coeliac intolerant people, cereals with extra nutritional benefits and generally contribute to lower food prices by contributing to lower production costs.

For farmers, crops such as GM insect-resistant maize and herbicide tolerant oilseed rape could lead to improved control of pests and weeds at lower costs, leading to higher profits.

Other benefits included cleaner crops following the planting of GM varieties, better soil condition and reduced weed burden returned to the land.

Additional environmental benefits included: a reduction in the application of pesticide active ingredients and reduced losses of non-target organisms, including beneficial insects.

GM said to benefit:

  • Consumers
  • Farmers
  • Animal feed supply chain

Lower fuel use

Also, a reduction in the frequency of farm machinery use would cut soil erosion, boost soil moisture retention, and lower fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The animal feed sector would benefit from cheaper supplies of raw materials if GM crops were grown and crops with enhanced nutritional profile, such as having higher protein levels. While separate storage measures for GM and non-GM supplies would lift costs, it was unlikely that these would cause big changes in the feed chain structure. Retailers were said to be unconcerned about an increase in the amount of animal feed coming from GM crops.

The HGCA’s Dr Vicky Foster said: “We felt it was important to develop an independent evidence-base, free from distortion and speculation, to better prepare the industry for the implications of GM crop production, should the technology become available in the UK.”

Controversial subject

Soil Association

“ ...we are pleased to see the report acknowledge that the ultimate decisions about GM lie with consumers.”

Peter Melchett

Acknowledging GM was a controversial subject, Foster said the report focused on the science, rather than consumer acceptability. “However, we live in a market economy and farmers and processors are reliant on consumer demand for their products,” ​she added.

“Although this study demonstrates there would be tangible benefits to farmers and the environment in certain GM crop production scenarios, ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the consumer.”

Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said: “It’s good to see a report recognise that we ‘live in a market economy’, and that farmers rely on consumer demand for what we produce.

“With the Food Standards Agency finding that consumer opposition to GM is actually increasing, we are pleased to see the report acknowledge that the ultimate decisions about GM lie with consumers.”

Read the report here​.

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1 comment

Reading between the lines

Posted by Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor,

Couple of reflections here:

1) These alleged "benefits" do not exist and are so heavily laced with "ifs" and "coulds" they may never exist. The biggest "benefits" of existing GM crops are the higher seed prices and the higher agrochemical sales they pull in for GM companies. Solid, long-term benefits for farmers or consumers? I'll not hold my breath.

2) This study has multiple citations to a well-known go-to pro-GM group that we exposed for its serious methodological flaws some time ago. See http://www.foodandwatereurope.org/briefs/cooking-the-books/

There's nothing new here. Farmers and consumers should put their thinking caps on when they see stuff like this.

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