EU ruling on GM crops comes under fire
Published Date: 07 July 2011 By Andrew Arbuckle, Rural Affairs Editor
THE decision by European politicians to allow individual member states to ban the growing of genetically-modified crop was criticised yesterday by Europe's largest plant breeder.
Limagrain chief executive Daniel Chéron said: "If we don't embrace GM technology now, we cannot expect to benefit from its advantages in 2020."
He said: "Corn yields are increasing by an average 2 per cent year on year, compared with flat growth n wheat. GM technology is largely responsible for delivering the yield improvements seen in corn."
He added that yield should not be the sole criteria for the plant breeder. "Advances in breeding technologies … is delivering traits that will benefit growers in other ways. For Limagrain, this means developing varieties with improved nitrogen efficiency and drought tolerance."
He compared the open approach to GM technology operating in most other parts of the world with the negative attitudes in Europe towards the use of technology, such as plant biotechnology, in breeding new varieties.
But while using GM was important, it was not the panacea for all problems, he said. "Non-GM traits also have a great deal to offer. Developing a hybrid wheat is a huge challenge - the genome is more complicated than that of maize - but if it can be done, it has the potential to deliver significant benefits."
The European vote also upset NFU Scotland and its counterpart in England, with both saying it put the EU on a retrograde path that flew in the face of science.
Union policy manager Peter Loggie said: "MEPs are paving the way for a law which invites national governments to look to science for the facts and then ignore them in favour of emotional argument."
He added that the net effect of devolving responsibility on whether to adopt GM technology down to member state level might be understandable, but the effects could be damaging for EU farmers, scientists and consumers as markets would be distorted and it would obstruct the EU's competitiveness.