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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

HoL Carter Report Lacks Balance Between Husbandry, Market and Technology

Immediate release (7 Jul 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

The House of Lords European Union Committee Report Innovation in EU Agriculture concentrates too heavily on technological solutions and productivity and too little on developing innovations in husbandry and marketing to make EU agricultural sustainable both environmentally and economically says GM Freeze.

GM Freeze is extremely concerned that the Committee has proposed a relaxation in the application of the precautionary principle (paragraph 164) without fully reflecting upon the numerous food and environmental disasters, like BSE and DDT, which led to the precautionary principle being introduced in the first place.

GM Freeze says the Committee’s view that, “GM is only one example of a range of possible technologies,” (see summary) is a welcome recognition that GM technology is not the answer to everything. However the group says the report plays down the potential for other plant breeding techniques, such as marker assisted selection, on cost grounds without reflecting on the huge R&D cost associated with just one GM crop. For instance the current GM potato trial at the John Innes Centre has received £1.7 million in public money from the BBSRC alone and is many years away from producing a commercial crop.

GM Freeze welcomed the Committee’s call for increased research funding and the need to address more effective transmission of research findings to farmers.

A major criticism of the report is its failure to explore in depth the key role agroecology will play in developing future sustainable food production systems based on improved management of soil and other natural resources as energy, fertilisers and water become scarcer and more expensive.

Summing up Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

This report concentrates far too much on technology to get out of the mess we have made and not enough on developing good husbandry, agronomy and trading systems in which farmers can operate at a profit. A profitable farm is far more likely to innovate than one in debt.

The Committee does not say GM is the answer to future food security, but it spends a lot of time criticising the EU regulatory system for delaying GM approvals when the real reason for delay is the failure of the biotech industry to come up with convincing, scientifically sound answers about the safety of GM crops that the EU has been asking for the last 13 years.