MEP backs ongoing GM potatoes trials

Former GM trials farmer now an MEP throws support behind tests to tackle potato blight problem.

Stuart Agnew MEP, a mixed farmer from Norfolk who is UKIP's spokesman on agriculture, has given his support to ongoing trials of potatoes genetically modified to confer resistance to blight.

"I was a GM trials farmer growing ten years ago and would happily do it again," he told a seminar in London earlier this month. "You are probably already eating GM. One in five eggs has GM protein as does Brazilian chicken and some pork. Consumers are saying: 'We don't mind eating it, but we don't want you farmers to grow it.'"

He likened the debate over GM to "the horse versus tractor argument a couple of generations ago", saying: "There was a case for each. But when Ferguson introduced the hydraulic lift on their TE20 tractor, that won the argument." The problem of controlling black grass in wheat at a time of high commodity prices "could be the TE20 moment for GM", he added.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson added his support to the technology this month, telling The Daily Telegraph: "Emphatically we should be looking at GM. There are real benefits and you've got to sell those real environmental benefits."

Soil Association GM benefits contested

The Soil Association has attacked environment secretary Owen Paterson's support for GM crops and his claim that they bring "environmental benefits".

Policy director Peter Melchett said: "The UK Government's own farm-scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.

He added: "US government figures show that overall pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because, as scientists opposed to GM predicted, superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied."


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