The market will decide to what extent GM crops are grown in Britain,
but farmers and growers need workable co-existence rules to enable
all sectors, including organic, to retain their competitive marketing
That was the conclusion of a debate on GM co-existence at a meeting
of the NFU Council in Warwickshire. Council endorsed a position
statement, which will form the basis of the NFU’s response
to a Government consultation exercise on the issue, expected to
be launched shortly.
The statement backs the co-existence framework recommended by
SCIMAC (Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops),
to deliver the 0.9% threshold for accidental presence. This is
based on a code of practice and a redress charter, with statutory
separation distances and notification arrangements. It also calls
urgently for a 0.5% threshold for seeds.
NFU Vice President, Paul Temple, told the meeting: “This
is about being prepared for something that may happen in the future.
Consumers will decide what they want from us. But we need to keep
our options open, and agreeing sensible co-existence rules enables
us to do that.”
Mr Temple, who presented the paper to Council, stressed that the
NFU’s guiding principle in the GM debate was that the interests
or choices exercised by any one group of producers should not prejudice
the options of another.
He said: “We are determined that our stance in the GM debate
should be based on sound science. But this particular issue is
not about the pros and cons of GMs; it is about co-existence, which
is a purely economic issue.
“We are well aware of the potential benefits of GMs, but
we are equally aware of the concerns that many farmers and growers,
particularly in the organic sector, have about the technology and
“The best way to meet those concerns is to have co-existence
measures that are achievable and pragmatic, which genuinely protect
crop integrity and which do not place impossibly high barriers
in the way either of farmers wanting to grow GMs, or of organic
producers wanting to protect their businesses.
“We consider that the SCIMAC proposals meet those criteria,
and that is why we have based our approach to co-existence on them.”
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