The EU is due to vote on the licensing of a GM (genetically modified) insect-resistant maize later this month, Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson announced in his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference today.

Although the crop is not relevant to the UK, the vote is significant because, if approved, this will be the first time the EU has approved a GM food crop for planting for 15 years.
‘Whether or not this vote heralds a breakthrough in the EU’s regulation of GM crops remains to be seen,’ said Mr Paterson. ‘Delays and blockages have been politically-movitaved rather than based on evidence.’

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‘There are other tools in the toolbox; GM is not a panacea. But the longer Europe closes its doors to GM [crops], the greater the risk of Europe becoming a museum of world farming.’

Mr Paterson says Defra has committed £70 million to help commercialise new technologies and £90 million towards establishing centres for agricultural innovation.

The EU Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, commented: ‘It is at political, consumer and parliament level to decide if GM technology is acceptable. The Commission advanced the idea of leaving it to individual member states to decide, but this has not been accepted.’

NFU president Peter Kendall, who had just returned from the USA, said that his counterpart in America had described the European market as ‘a backwater’ and that was looking to deal with ‘exciting’ markets like China.

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