English farmers could finally be allowed to commercially grow genetically modified (GM) crops on their own soilfollowing a landmark ruling by the European Parliament,The Telegaph reports.
Many British scientists, the government, and other groups are behind GM entering the country’s agriculture industry. Currently there are no approved commercial commodities produced in Britain. But now, GM crops such as maize could be part of the landscape as soon as spring this year. The foods will probably be initially used as animal feed.
Once passed, GM crops that have been deemed safe for consumption by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be open for EU countries to plant. As the British government has been central to the approval, it will almost certainly be behind allowing the introduction of GM into the country’s commercial agriculture industry.
In November 2014 the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told Business Insider about the discussions. DEFRA said a proposal had been tabled to give member states the choice of whether they want to plant EU-approved GM crops.
DEFRA said: “If the EU does not embrace GM planting it will miss out on the economic and environmental benefits that this is delivering elsewhere in the world. GM is one of the options for making production more efficient and sustainable. All the analysis shows that the world will need 70% more food by 2050”.
The environment minister Lord de Mauley last week told MPs that the technology is key for the 21st century. And the Council for Science and Technology (CST) also showed support in the lead up to the decision. The body previously wrote a letter to prime minister David Cameron to warn of food challenges amid climate disruption and an increasing population.
GM crops, simply, have been modified to better suit our needs; adapt to a changing planet and global climate. Some might be more resilient to drought or famine, while others may require fewer pesticides to grow. GM can also boost the size and speed in which plants grow, and even boost the nutritional value of crops.
Professor Joyce Tait of Edinburgh Univerity’s Innogen Institute, who researches GM, says: “There is a food crisis. GM food is a vital resource in our global production.”
In the likes of the US, Argentina, and Brazil, the technology is widely used to improve efficiency and feed more people using less land. In the UK currently, it’s only trialled for investigation: 20:20 Wheat, from Rothamsted Research in England, is the world’s longest running agricultural research station.
Many remain opposed to its use. Some argue that GM can have a negative impact on the environment and can be damaging ecosystems — even human health. The Green Party often stands against GM.
While GreenFacts writes: “Genetic engineering may accelerate the damaging effects of agriculture or contribute to more sustainable agricultural practises and the conservation of natural resources, including biodiversity. The environmental concerns associated with transgenic crops are summarised below along with the current state of scientific knowledge regarding them.”
In addition, because other EU nations — such as Wales, Scotland, France and Germany — remain opposed to GM crops, it’s likely the market will be challenging. The Telegraph notes that farmers might be disinclined to grow the crops because there will be too few countries to export to.