Briefly and imperfectly reported by the ardently pro GM Farmers Guardian, at the Oxford Farming Conference, Tom Macmillan, innovation director at the Soil Association, responded to comments by the former environmentalist Mark Lynas and Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson.
”Mark Lynas is right that improving productivity across agriculture, including in organic farming, has an important part to play in feeding the world sustainably. Through our Duchy Originals Future Farming programme, the Soil Association is investing in research and innovation to help farmers develop and share novel approaches to help improve productivity in environmentally responsible ways.
”Lynas acknowledged that meeting this challenge globally is in large part about ensuring existing techniques are available to the poorest farmers in the world, and much also depends on directly tackling poverty and on rich countries adopting more sustainable consumption habits”.
Mark Lynas is wrong, ‘seriously mistaken’: “Banging on about GM crops, as Lynas did today, is a red herring.”
This, Macmillan continued, because the results to date have been poor:
- The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.
- US Government figures show pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied.
He warns that “Lynas, Paterson and other GM enthusiasts must beware of opening floodgates to real problems like this.”
After citing the Benbrook study, reported here some time ago, he referred to the situation in this country:
- Most of the British public do not want GM.
- The recent British Science Association survey cited by Owen Paterson shows that public concern over GM food has not lessened – it shows that attitudes have not changed significantly.
- The share saying they agree that GM food “should be encouraged” has actually dropped from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012.
- The Government has kept people in the dark by opposing labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM.
The Soil Association supports practical innovation that addresses real needs, is genuinely sustainable and puts farmers in control of their livelihoods. Where GM crops have been planted they are doing the opposite, locking farmers into buying herbicides and costly seed, while breeding resistant weeds and insects.
Tom Macmillan stresses that the drive to promote GM technology is not due to any desire to feed the world’s poor or improve the natural environment but by Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer’s desire for ever-increasing profit. He ends:
“Meeting the challenge of providing better nutrition for more people sustainably calls for joined-up research that takes an ecological approach, responds to people’s real needs and respects farmers’ know-how”.
Soil Association article in full: