Chief scientist backs calls to lift GM crop restrictions

Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) chief scientist Professor Ian Crute has backed calls for the EU to relax current restrictions on developing and growing GM crops.

Crute was speaking at the launch of Planting the Future, a report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council, on which he is the UK representative. "Agricultural innovation can capitalise on the rapid pace of advance in functional genomics research and it is unwise to exclude any technology for ideological reasons," he said.

The report claims the EU is falling behind international competitors in agricultural innovation, with implications for science and innovation and the environment as well as for agriculture.

Earlier, Defra secretary Owen Paterson reaffirmed the case for GM crops. "We must find a way to allow fair market access for products that have undergone a rigorous case-by-case safety assessment," he insisted.

Paterson's remarks were later backed by the NFU and the Country Land and Business Association.

Caroline Drummond, chief executive at sustainable farming body LEAF, said GM "has the potential to benefit the sustainability of farming systems in the UK".

But she called for more research. "We need to be able to establish the development of plants that have greater resistance to pests and diseases, more resilience to adverse environments and develop the nutritional value of crops," she maintained.

However, Waitrose has restated its opposition to GM, with managing director Mark Price describing it last week as "a technology looking for a problem to solve".

The food retailer also announced a rise in sales of organic food of 6.6 per cent over the past quarter.

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