The UK would be “foolish” if it didn’t consider using GM technology to help food production, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).
This morning, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) warned the country needs a “radical” rethink of how it produces and consumes its food.
More food needs to be produced – but it must be made in a way that lessens the impact the food supply chain has on the environment, Defra said.
Terry Jones, head of government affairs for the NFU, told just-food that GM food is “one of the things in the toolbox” that could be used to meet Defra’s goals.
“Everyone else is evaluating it, we would be foolish if we didn’t evaluate it properly as well,” Jones said. “Talking personally, we don’t want to be left in the cold. If other people are using this technology we are in danger yet again of making UK agriculture uncompetitive and there are plenty of examples already of where we’ve done that. Clearly, we need access to some of these new technologies if we’re going to keep pace.”
The government report, which showed that the UK faces challenges to ensure the sustainability of its food supply, also suggested a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate that will affect what food can be grown and where.
Jones said he believes it is possible to achieve the two together.
“Recently we launched the Campaign for Farming Environment. It was a market management tool, but when it was scrapped, and rightly so, there was concern that we’d lost biodiversity on the back of it. The immediate response was to say that we must regulate to reinstate this area.
“We said, we think we should have a voluntary approach to this where farmers can respond individually and create bio-diverse features and enhance the environment on their own farms. I think we can do the two together and I think that is the sort of approach we need to do it.”
Jones said the UK now needs “deliverable policies” and for the UK and European farms to “get back into the mix” and compete and produce food for the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population.
“I think we need to look at competitiveness around regulation and around access to labour. We need to look at giving people the confidence to invest through the appropriate tax allowances, agricultural buildings allowance needs to be kept in place, we need the right sort of grant aid where it’s available and we need better supply chains.
“It’s those sort of practical deliveries that we need to see now … some very, very clear and simple delivery for farmers and the rest of the food supply chain.”