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Concerns about the health implications of genetically modified (GM) crops are “a complete nonsense” according to the environment secretary, who said Britain should be “emphatically” looking at their cultivation.Owen Paterson, whose brief includes food and rural affairs, also said he was confident that the prime minister would find an “appropriate moment” in future to back GM food and that it would be a question of persuading the public.
“Emphatically we should be looking at GM … I’m very clear it would be a good thing,” he told the Daily Telegraph in an interview.
“The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits.”
Paterson’s comments come in the wake of feelers put out by the government earlier this year to gather expert viewpoints on a future strategy for agricultural technology, a consultation process that also considered cloning and GM techniques.
Polling recently has also suggested that the UK public ‘s concern over genetically modified food has softened in the past decade.
A survey published in March found a quarter of Britons are now unconcerned by GM food, compared with 17% nearly a decade ago, when supermarkets debated whether to introduce GM products following widespread public opposition and attacks on GM test fields in the 1990s.
The number of people “concerned” about GM has also fallen by 5%, according to the Populus survey, commissioned by the British Science Association.
Paterson went on to say that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, adding: “There’s about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world.
“There isn’t a single piece of meat being served [in a typical London restaurant] where a bullock hasn’t eaten some GM feed. So it’s a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe.”
On the question of the government backing GM, he added: “I’m very clear it would be a good thing. So you’d discuss it within government, you’d discuss it at a European level and you’d need to persuade the public.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk.