Carrot and onion growers hear scientist say GM technology is key to future

Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board chief scientist Professor Ian Crute says that GM technologies are necessary for growers to meet future challenges.

Speaking at the Onion & Carrot Conference held in Peterborough last week, Crute told delegates that genetics "is one of the most sensible forms of technology", which can help the industry solve many problems, such as the need for improved pest and disease resistance.

His statement echoes the sentiments of another professor - East Malling Research's Jerry Cross - who earlier this autumn said GM technology may be needed to help growers overcome pesticide use.

Crute commented: "A job is there to be done and we need GM if we are going to meet these challenges. It's not a panacea but we have the technology. We need it to improve resistance to pests and diseases and reduce our reliance on agrochemicals."

He added that GM could also be used to improve the flavour, nutrition and texture of crops.

Crute also told growers that the current drive for greater production efficiency could deliver a win-win in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, the reduction of which must happen as soon as possible.

"Efficient horticulture - maximum yield - is not just about making more money. It's about using natural resources of land and therefore having an impact on the whole area of greenhouse gases, which we will have to do in our response to the low-carbon emission plan. It will come our way very quickly."

He added: "Water is (another) one of the limiting factors. That's something in this industry at which we have to get better. There is less water per person in the south east of England than in Morocco or Egypt. We really need to take water management seriously."

- For more news from the conference see Grower, 4 December.

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