UK Government Ready to Reignite GM Debate

The UK Government is ready to explore once more the use of GM technology in crops, hoping that this will offer a solution to the current world food crisis. Phil Woolas, the UK’s Environment Minister, has reportedly held private talks with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, an umbrella group to promote the role of biotechnology in agriculture.

In an interview with the Independent newspaper yesterday, Mr Woolas said: “There is a growing question of whether GM crops can help the developing world out of the current food price crisis. It is a question that we as a nation need to ask ourselves.” Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday called on leaders at an EU summit to consider relaxing rules on the import of GM animal feed, as a way of lowering food costs for the poorest countries.

The only GM food crops currently available commercially are those which have been grown to be herbicide or insect resistant. There are very legitimate concerns that extensive growth of such crops will severely impact on the biodiversity of the countryside; as broad-spectrum herbicides such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ indiscriminately affect wildlife. However, GM technology could offer benefits to developing countries if the focus was on research into higher yields, drought and disease resistance. Downing Street has commented that “GM crops are to be considered on a case-by-case basis, based solely on the science”.

Does GM offer a solution to hunger and poverty in the developing world as food prices rise and food shortages threaten?
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