Source – Somerset Standard (UK), Editorial
Date – Jan 17, 2013
Website – www.thisissomerset.co.uk
One of the biggest topics within agriculture at the moment is GM, or genetic modification. Perhaps many can remember the huge PR disaster that brought this industry to its knees in the EU in the mid-1990s. However, now I believe there is a need to address the opportunities that GM may hold.
The biggest concerns were to the environment and health if GM was embraced nearly 15 years ago but evidence now shows that the technology can deliver huge benefits.
As time has passed, many countries outside Europe have incorporated it into mainstream farming and now more than three trillion GM meals have been eaten with not a single substantiated case of ill health. Furthermore, the concerns of environmental damage have been proved wrong with GM crops such as maize and cotton being grown with less or no chemical input and in some cases with substantial increases in yield over conventionally grown varieties.
In the UK no GM crops are grown commercially but GM commodities such as soya are imported for animal feed.
Environmentalist Mark Lynas, who helped start the anti-GM movement in this country and was one of those responsible for destroying many of the trial plots back in the mid-’90s, has now spoken out in favour of this technology. He now realises that biotechnology offers huge opportunities for us to produce food more sustainably.
By 2050 it is predicted that we will have to feed nine billion people on the same land area with limited water and a very demanding climate. How can we feed a further two billion people without widespread famine, food shortages and huge price hikes?
It will not be the farmers of the developed world who will be able to satisfy this massive global demand on our own – it will be countries like Africa that need to embrace the technology and increase their potential. However, the majority of these countries produce is exported to the EU and because of Europe’s anti-GM stance – many foreign farmers are frightened of growing GM in case they will not be able to sell their produce.
Therefore, putting it bluntly, children in Africa suffer from malnutrition or starve to death because their farmers are fearful of attempting to grow drought-resistant or pest-resistant GM crops. Surely in a continent that wastes in excess of 19 million tonnes of food a year, it is high time we opened our eyes and took a fresh look at the technology that has been proven over the last decade-and-a-half.