Truss backs GM crops despite strong opposition

Environment Secretary Liz Truss has thrown her weight behind genetically modified (GM) food, saying the technology can have a positive environmental impact.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, South West Norfolk MP Truss said that GM crops – which are largely banned in the UK – have an important role to play.

“If you look at what has happened in the US, crops are being grown in a more environmentally friendly way with less water usage and less pesticide usage,” she said. “I would like us to have that opportunity. Our farmers need access to technology that will help them work in world markets.”

US example

Some GM crops can help to reduce water loss from agriculture and to improve drought tolerance. US farmers have been using the technology for more than 20 years, with GM crops accounting for about half of all harvested cropland.

However the decision to use America as an example could be poorly timed, given the recent controversy over GM food in the US.

In November, an anti-GM campaign entitled Letter from America was delivered to the Prime Minister’s office, signed by citizens and organisations representing nearly 60 million Americans. The letter stated that 72% of Americans do not want to eat GM foods, and the experiment has damaged the agricultural system and adulterated the food supply.

EU regulations

At the Oxford Farming Conference, Truss stated that decisions about GM crops should be taken in Britain, referring to an upcoming European Parliament vote next week which could open the EU up to widespread GM cropping.

Currently, only two GM crops have been approved for commercial growing in the EU, although large quantities are imported into Europe as animal feed.

If the UK does get the green light to grow GM crops, GM maize for animal feed could be a potential first step, since much of the meat already consumed in Britain is raised on GM feed.

Brad Allen

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