Neil Parish welcomes Owen Paterson's speech on GM

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has welcomed a speech made by The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in which he makes the case for Genetically Modified (GM) food technology and for an open science-led approach to food security.

Owen Paterson was speaking at Rothamsted Research, the joint home of the Norman Borlaug Institute for Global Food Security, on Thursday 20th June where he called for a more informed discussion about the potential of genetically modified crops to play a part in feeding the world’s growing population. Since 1996 there has been a 100-fold increase in the global use of GM and is used on around 12% of all arable land, which roughly equates to an area around seven times the size of the UK. GM Crops are being grown by 17.3 million farmers in 28 countries on 170 million hectares of land in 2012. Over the past 25 years the European Union funded more than 50 projects on GM safety involving more than 400 independent research groups at a cost of around £260 million which have confirmed there is no scientific evidence associating GM food with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.

Despite this the European Union’s strict laws effectively bans GM crops in Member States. This risks driving scientific and intellectual capacity away when Europe, particularly the UK, should be playing a leading role in feeding the world and increasing the resilience of global food supplies. We should be at the forefront of this global scientific race, not watching from the sidelines. The UK is the natural home for science research and the Government is committed to working with science and technology companies to help them overcome any barriers to undertaking their work here. This includes the development of GM crops.

Welcoming Mr Paterson’s speech Neil Parish, who is a farmer and a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: “Food security is one of the gravest challenges facing Governments around the world. By 2050 the global population estimated to reach 9 billion and food production increase to meet this demand. “However, this has to be achieved using the existing agricultural land, much of which is degrading, whilst also making more efficient use of water and mitigating the existing and future impact of farming on the environment. The challenge is no less great on the home front where the UK population is set to increase by 10 million in the next quarter of a century alone and the percentage of agricultural land in the UK has fallen from 39% in 1989 to 25% in 2009.“Properly tested and extensively monitored GM crops have a crucial role to play in feeding the world whilst reducing the impact of farming on the environment and now is the right time to have a science led debate on this technology.”