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Stackyard News Jun 06

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Choice is the key in the GM crop debate

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 position.


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 its impacts.

“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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