Friday, July 11, 2003

The cost of GM food

A new report by the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit has suggested that the economic benefits of genetically-modified (GM) crops may be limited, at least in the short-term.

The report makes three main points. Firstly, most of the currently available GM varieties are for crops not commonly grown in the UK, like soya and cotton. So, GM will only affect a small part of British agriculture initially. Secondly, where suitable GM crops are available, they may have to be kept separate from non-GM varieties from harvest through to shelf, adding considerable expense to processing and production. Thirdly, supermarkets do not appear keen to stock GM food. The report has been leapt upon by anti-GM groups as yet another reason for not planting GM crops in the UK. Thus, an economic problem caused by the irrational reaction to GM crops is utilised as a further argument against GM. For example, the BBC quotes Stewart Wells, leader of the Canadian National Farmers Union. He is against GM production in Canada. However, Wells is an organic farmer who fears that GM-free countries will steal Canada’s traditional export markets. But his concerns are mainly a reaction to the threat posed, not by GM, but the negative publicity attached to GM. The proper response is to challenge the arguments against GM, and show that it is capable of producing good food, more efficiently. Then, the economic case for GM will become much stronger.

'Little economic benefit' from GM crops, BBC News, 11 July 2003


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