Blog: Hannah AbdullaGM is safe, Cameron's science advisers claim

Hannah Abdulla | 18 March 2014

A letter from the Council for Science and Technology to UK Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed that food producers and retailers are not doing enough to highlight to consumers the challenges of production and distribution as the war against GM foods continues.

Sir Mark Walport and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell chairman and co-chair of the Council for Science and Technology called for a relaxation surrounding GM trials, arguing that the UK has limited agricultural land supply and there needed to be an increase in productivity of existing land to optimise crop production.

"We can currently afford to buy all the food we need on the open market. We cannot continue to take this for granted," it read.

Referring to the GM process, the letter read: "The European Academies Science Advisory Council notes that, after over fifteen years of cultivation, there is no compelling evidence of any greater risk to humans, animals or the environment than that associated with conventional crops".

It continued to discuss how GM crop trials needed to be assessed individually rather than being talked of "generically".

"GM is neither intrinsically safe nor unsafe. The questions are always: what plant? What genetic modification? For what purpose?"

The letter has added to debate surrounding GM foods and the government's "duty" to explore the contentious area as noted by UK environment secretary Owen Paterson in June last year. At the time, he insisted GM was a "safe, proven, and beneficial innovation."

"The problems we face in feeding ourselves in 40 years' time are very real and something we have to prepare for right now. We should all keep one fact at the front of our minds. At this very moment there are one billion people on this planet who are chronically hungry. Are we really going to look them in the eye and say 'We have the proven technology to help, but the issue's just too difficult to deal with, it's just too controversial'?

"It won't be long until the population moves from seven billion to nine billion and we'll have even fewer resources to feed them. It is our duty to explore technologies like GM because they may hold the answers to the very serious challenges ahead," he said at the time.

However, following the horsemeat scandal of 2012 and the growing importance of food integrity and the safety of UK and European supply chains, GM is likely to continue to be a hotly debated subject for 2015.

 

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