UK’s NFU boss attacks GM wheat vandals

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

UK’s NFU boss attacks GM wheat vandals

Related tags United kingdom

Anti-GM wheat attackers are the equivalent of Nazi book-burners, according to the president of the UK National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Speaking to MPs as the organisation launched its new Farming Delivers for Britain campaign in London yesterday, Peter Kendall condemned vandalism on a GM wheat trial, following a break-in at the Rothamsted Research Centre in Hertfordshire. He said: “I have to condemn the scandalous attempts over the weekend to destroy the trials of GM wheat at Rothamsted. This is criminal, and must be dealt with as such. It’s worse than that. It is the wilful imposition of ignorance, directly comparable to Nazi book-burning in the 1930s.”

The new campaign, launched during a boat ride on the River Thames, aims to move on from the previous Farming Matters campaign and educate the UK public about the contribution the farming sector makes to Britain.

A report from the NFU claimed the agri-food sector contributed £85bn to the UK economy last year, while helping to keep some 3.5 million people in work. It also showed that UK farming contributed £8.84bn GVA to the UK economy last year, a 25% increase from the year before, bucking the recessionary trend, and that food and drink has become the UK’s fourth-largest exporting sector.

Kendall said the new campaign was not about farmers holding out the “begging bowl”​, but was about showcasing what farming delivered for the country. He said British self-sufficiency had fallen by 15% in the past 20 years, and the NFU wanted to work with government to reform regulation and ensure policies were in place to boost production. Meanwhile, the campaign will look to consumers to enjoy a more seasonal diet, “eating British food when it’s at its best”.

However, Kendall also said he wanted that self-sufficiency to increase organically through good work: “We’ve stood and debated long and hard about whether we can be 70% self-sufficient. That, to me, feels right, and would like to see us aim for that target, but I don’t want to sound like we’re going to be interventionalist and manage our markets. Let’s do more of what we do really well.

“The call to arms is very simple. If you want to support British farmers, buy British. But we don’t expect consumers to buy British out of patriotic duty, we want them to buy because of the quality and high standards that we have, and for all the things that farming delivers for Britain.”

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