Landlines: An uphill battle to have GM crops grown in Europe

Share this article

What do you need when plodging about in autumn mud with autumn rain beating down? That’s right – hearing a forecast that this could be the wettest autumn/winter for more than 30 years.

Put that one on the back burner, I think, and try to have only cheerful thoughts instead of letting the present mist and drizzle get us down.

A recent full page advert in a British national newspaper by an American organisation confirmed that the anti-genetically modified crops movement is not giving up. The loose grouping of individuals and companies producing The Letter From America accepts that well over 90% of American soya, maize and cotton is now GM.

Most of us would concede that is a convincing majority that makes GM an accepted form of plant breeding and crop production. But Letter from America takes a paid page to argue that the UK and rest of the EU must continue to ban GM crops because they are “failed technology.”

The area of GM crops now growing in America, not to mention other areas of the world such as India and South America, dwarfs any possible area that could be grown in Europe.

But the group must have been encouraged to note that last week the job of chief scientific adviser to the EU was scrapped after, it was claimed, pressure from the environmental movement Greenpeace.

Professor Anne Glover, a former chief scientific officer of Scotland, advised the EU on developments. Her advice was based on global experience and scientific results. She insisted on evidence, not sentiment or anecdote.

In effect, she said that GM crops are safe and could/should be grown in the EU. As the environmental organisations have managed to ban GM crops in Europe for two decades by a combination of sentiment and scaremongering – my opinion – Professor Glover was fighting an uphill battle. How uphill she found when she was made redundant. Another win for sentiment over science.

The Royal Show used to be the centrepiece of British farming. Its bowler-hatted, pinstriped board members, forcing their way round the Stoneleigh showground in Range Rovers saw their show as a cut above provincials such as the Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh.

Last week the last rites were read at Stoneleigh, the best evidence yet seen of how not to run an agricultural show – the 1,000 acre site sold for use as a business park and the family silver auctioned. Or as many of the hundreds of trophies and paintings and books that the Royal Agricultural Society of England had accumulated over 150 years that were not reclaimed pre-sale by dozens of aggrieved specialist societies proving ownership.

And the “provincial” shows? All going from strength to strength because they haven’t forgotten their farming roots.