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Europe risks repeating multi-decade GM crop debate as farm technology advances

New report highlights the importance of GM crops for meeting the challenge of the world’s growing population

Europe risks ‘becoming the museum of world agriculture’ if new technology continues to be stifled, an expert report published to mark the 20th anniversary of the commercialisation of GM crops warns today.

‘Cultivating the Future’, a series of essays authored by leading plant scientists, academics, trade bodies and politicians, analyses numerous breakthroughs in plant technology and pioneering new approaches to food and farming over the past 20 years, and says we are on the verge of a new range of tools developed from advances in genetic knowledge and technology.

But the report concludes that the ‘prolonged and shallow debate ‘ around GM crops in the last two decades is unsustainable, and risks imposing a great cost on farms and on the environment.
With consumers predicted to demand 70 per cent more food by 2050, the authors warn that there is no time to waste.

The report, which launches in Parliament today at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science & Technology in Agriculture, finds that agricultural production will need to grow at a faster rate over the next 20 years than at any time in history, due to the increasing pressures of rising population and income and the sustainable limits of global natural resources.

The report highlights the vital role that GM crops have played over the last 20 years in reducing waste and increasing yields and how crucial it is that farmers have access to technology in the future. Acknowledging the UK’s food and farming sector and our strong scientific community, the authors contend that the UK has many competitive advantages in this industry and should move beyond debate to encourage farmers to deploy the fruits of research and development in agriculture.

Speaking at the launch, Mark Buckingham, abc Chairman, said:

“The contributors to this collection have demonstrated not only the benefits of GM crops and the great potential of new innovations, but also the political challenges faced in Europe which has led to the stifling of the technology in terms of cultivation in this region.”

“Significantly, expert contributions from the NFU and the FDF have also highlighted how there is no clear opposition to the technology among consumers and that British farmers see adoption of new innovations as essential to securing their future.”

“I would like to thank all contributors to the report for their expert insight.”

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser at National Farmers Union, and one of the contributors to the report, said:

“This collection of essays from expert authors highlights the impact of biotechnology on agriculture over the last 20 years. In doing so it demonstrates why 21st century farmers and growers see the adoption of innovative practices and new technologies, including biotechnology, as absolutely essential to securing their future in an uncertain world.”

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For more information, please contact the abc secretariat: Matt Corby at +44 (0)20 7025 2349 or

This paper has been authored by a range of experts from science and industry. The full list of contributors to the report is:

  • Professor Sir John Beddington, Oxford Martin School
  • Ella Adlen, Oxford Martin School
  • Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU
  • Graham Brookes, PG Economics
  • Soledad de Juan Arechederra, Fundación ANTAMA
  • Julie Girling MEP
  • Professor Huw D Jones, Aberystwyth University
  • Helen Munday, FDF

 Download the full press release