UK farmers should be allowed to use genetically-modified crop technology to help them increase food production, according to Defra minister Liz Truss.
Ms Truss said GM crops offered a real opportunity for UK farmers and that producers should be given the same access to scientific developments as those in other countries.
Speaking at the NFU conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (24 February), Ms Truss said she was pleased that MPs in Europe had agreed to allow member states to decide for themselves whether GM crops could be grown commercially.
But she said she would like member states to have the freedom to make more choices over which technologies they could use.
“Europe needs to embrace scientific advances and I am pleased the need for greater national discretion in GM has been accepted,” she told delegates.
“I want to see [UK farmers] have a level playing field and have the same opportunities other countries have, [using the technology to] reduce water use and pesticide use, increase productivity and yields .
“The new agreement to have more discretion at a member state level, I would like that to go further.”
Her comments were echoed by farm minister George Eustice, who said it was time the UK had a grown-up debate about GM.
“We should be taking a science-based approach to things,” he said during the conference’s party political debate.
“Productivity has plateaued, and if we can find ways to improve productivity the should allowed. We shouldn’t allow non-scientific arguments to muddy things.”
UKIP MEP Stewart Agnew, a member of the European Parliament’s agricultural and rural development committee, said failing to give UK farmers all the tools available put productivity at risk.
“Instead we will be importing food from countries which can use these technologies anyway,” he said.
“We have British scientists finding solutions to problems in British agriculture, but they are not allowed to use them because they use GM technology.
“Theres a stand-off: you can’t feed the country through organic farming or by saying you can’t use certain types of chemicals and then import food from other countries.”