Environment Secretary Owen Paterson backs GM crops
Monday 10 December 2012
Genetically modified food should be grown and sold widely in Britain and opponents of the technology are talking “humbug”, according to the Environment Secretary.
Owen Paterson made the remarks amid speculation that ministers are ready to relax controls on the cultivation of GM crops.
Advocates argue that the techniques increase crop yields, avoid the need for pesticides, and could be essential in assuring Britain's future food security.
"Emphatically we should be looking at GM... I'm very clear it would be a good thing," Mr Paterson told the Daily Telegraph.
"The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods.
"There are real benefits, and what you've got to do is sell the real environmental benefits."
The coalition has allowed small-scale cultivation trials for GM food but widespread use is effectively banned.
Some GM products are contained in imported foods, but most supermarkets have banned the ingredients from their own-brand products because of public unease about the material.
Former prime minister Tony Blair retreated in the face of public scepticism during the 1990s after initially seeming well-disposed towards the technology.
However, the Government has recently run a consultation exercise about new "agri-tech" measures to increase the efficiency of British farms.
A formal ministerial response is due next year.
Mr Paterson said consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis.
"There's about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world," he said. "There isn't a single piece of meat being served (in a typical London restaurant) where a bullock hasn't eaten some GM feed. So it's a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe."
Mr Paterson refused to be drawn on the consultation, but said he was confident David Cameron would find an "appropriate moment" to back GM food.
"I'm very clear it would be a good thing," he went on. "So you'd discuss it within government, you'd discuss it at a European level and you'd need to persuade the public."
Some Liberal Democrat ministers are reported to be open to the idea of loosening rules on GM.
But the prospect may not go down well with the party's grass roots, who have previously been hostile to the technology.
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