U.K.’s Paterson Says EU Should Accept Genetically Modified Crops

The European Union should ease controls on genetically modified crops in order to meet future food demand, and the U.K. should take a leading role in expanding research, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said.

EU rules banning farmers from cultivating most genetically modified crops mean the bloc “is missing out” on technology that would boost yields and cut use of chemicals and fertilizer, Paterson said today at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, England, according to a copy of the speech posted online by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The EU has given approval for farmers to grow one GM crop in the bloc in the last 14 years, while more than 40 products can be imported for food and feed use, primarily for livestock, he said.

Cultivation of GM crops developed by companies including Monsanto Co. and Syngenta AG is common in the U.S., Brazil and Argentina, the world’s top exporters of corn and soybeans. The United Nations has said global food production should double by 2050 to meet rising demand. Worldwide, GM crops are grown on 170 million hectares (420 million acres), and less than 0.1 percent of that land is in the EU, Paterson said.

“While the rest of the world is plowing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind,” Paterson said. “We cannot afford to let that happen. The use of GM could be as transformative as the original agricultural revolution. The U.K. should be at the forefront.”

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