In the Scottish Farmer, Eleanor Mackay reports that South Berwickshire organic farmer Chris Walton has commended Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment and the Scottish Government for its stance on GM crops.
Chris farms pigs, cattle and sheep on 750 acres at Peelham Farm in Foulden. His farm has seen a growing demand for its produce, which he believes is down to a growing ‘sense of distrust’ in the food system and a growing desire around the world to source food that is not ‘contaminated’ by genetic modification or pesticides:
“After ten years in business, our number one concern is our customers’ needs – they drive our farm.
“We have seen a rapid increase in demand, particularly this year. I think across the UK there is growth and demand for organic and unadulterated food in various sectors.
“There is growing demand around the world to source food that is not contaminated with GM, which is part of this element of distrust – and there is uncertainty of the food safety of GM crops.
“With GM crops there is no going back,” he said. “As a business we take risky decisions in terms of how we develop, but if you make a system where GM crops are the norm when worldwide demand is not for GM food, then there will be no marketplace for our produce.
“Scottish farmers, as food producers, enjoy a reputation for quality. If we start to compromise on that brand, then we will lose our customers and business would disappear.”
Chris said in that order to produce disease resistant crops, more attention must be paid to soil quality: “The whole health system of a plant depends on its soil – if the soil is not healthy, the plant won’t be healthy and won’t have good disease resistance.
“GM technology can perhaps offer added nutritional quality, but if the minerals are not in the soil in the first place, the technology will never get it into the plant. Organic, unadulterated soil is the best opportunity to provide what that plant requires.”
Chris added that GM crops represented a worrying trend of corporation-led farming across the world and said: “As farmers we must take control of our market place. Once you open the door to something it becomes very hard to close and the consequential introduction of further GM crops becomes easier.”