In a speech on GM, Paterson will tout the technology’s benefits for farmers, the environment and consumers, and cite figures on the widespread adoption of GM crops in other parts of the world. GM crops are now grown on an estimated 12% of global arable land.
“Farmers wouldn’t grow these crops if they didn’t benefit from doing so,” he will say. “Governments wouldn’t licence these technologies if they didn’t recognise the economic, environmental and public benefits. Consumers wouldn’t buy these products if they didn’t think they were safe and cost effective. At the moment Europe is missing out.”
Currently, only two GM crops are approved for cultivation in Europe – Monsanto’s MON810 corn, and BASF’s Amflora potato. Several other GMO crops are not approved for cultivation but can be imported into Europe, and unintentional presence of GMOs is tolerated at a level of up to 0.9% in other crops.
“While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind. We cannot afford to let that happen,” Paterson will say, adding that use of GM technology could be a transformative agricultural revolution.
“I recently spoke to a farmer in North Carolina who has been able to do away with all of his spraying equipment as a result of GM technology.”
Meanwhile, anti-GM groups have criticised Paterson’s enthusiasm for the technology.
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, research and science Mike Childs said: “Despite decades of research, there are still no miracle crops to tackle the challenges agriculture faces, such as climate change, soil degradation, water shortages and growing demand.
“Where GM crops are grown, they are exacerbating the very intensive farming practices that are part of the problem. Ministers must urgently get behind a different approach to food and farming that delivers real sustainable solutions rather than peddling the snake oil that is GM.”
Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said that GM would “make it harder to feed the world”.
“It drives out and destroys the systems that international scientists agree we need to feed the world. We need farming that helps poorer African and Asian farmers produce food, not farming that helps Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto produce profits,” he said.
In the EU, if a food contains GM ingredients or comes from a GM source, this must be indicated on the label. However, products like meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GM feed do not need to be labelled, and neither do products produced with GM technology – like cheese produced with GM enzymes, for example.