Press Release: 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.”

– ENDS –            

For more information, please contact the abc secretariat: Matt Corby at +44 (0)20 7025 2349 or matt.corby@abcinformation.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:
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

Presss Release: EU red tape threatens British farming- 29/10/15

Leading farming, agricultural and plant science organisations have today issued a stark warning to the Government about the impact of European legislation on GM feed imports.
The report – ‘Going against the grain’ – calls on the Government to reject EU proposals to allow national bans for GM feed and food imports, in order to protect British farmers and consumers from market disruptions and increased prices. Any disruption to imports of GM feed could lead to price hikes in everyday items such as milk, eggs and bacon if farmers and breeders are prevented from accessing their main source of protein feed.

Launched in Parliament today, at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science & Technology in Agriculture, the report has been endorsed by five organisations spanning the entire food chain.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Julian Little, abc Chairman, said:

“New laws passed by the EU give Member States the right to introduce national bans on the cultivation of approved GM crops."

“Now, the Commission wants to nationalise bans for GM feed and food imports too. Coupled with the continued backlog in approvals of GM products for import, this will have a devastating impact on the future of UK agriculture."

“Astonishingly, the plans remain on the table even though they have been rejected by the European Parliament. We are calling for the UK Government to listen to its farmers, food producers and scientists to continue its sound approach and resist marginal political interference.”

Mark Spencer MP, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science & Technology in Agriculture Chair, said:

“The UK has always placed sound scientific evidence at the heart of its agricultural policy and will continue to be the voice of reason in Brussels, championing the interests of British farmers and consumers.”

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Advisor, National Farmers Union (NFU), said:

“UK farmers rely on imports of GM feed products, particularly soya beans – the largest source of protein feed in the world – to provide the right balance of nutrition for poultry and livestock production. Nearly all of the soya used in the EU (95%) is imported from South and North American countries, where GM technology adoption is over 90%."

“Feed is a significant proportion of farm production costs. Any disruption to the trade flows of protein feed and resulting price rises puts significant strain on farm businesses, harming the competitiveness of the British livestock sector. The necessity for a functioning and reliable approvals system for GM feed imports has never been so clear."

“The rules and regulations around GMOs in the EU must be firmly based on sound scientific evidence and not on national politics or perception. And farmers should have the choice to access authorised technologies available to their competitors around the world.”

Paul Temple, farmer and Chair of the Cereals & Oilseeds sector board at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, said:

“As farmers we are already under immense pressure to produce more from less and for less – we cannot be expected to achieve this if we are also denied access to a key resource."

“If affordable imports are banned, how will I be expected to feed my cattle? There isn’t enough non-GM feed grown in the UK to meet demand and the prices will push up costs for all, including consumers and risk driving some farmers out of business.”

Paul Rooke, Head of External Policy, Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), said:

“The EU proposals to ban GM food and feed imports threaten a devastating effect on our members and the whole of the agri-supply industry, with knock on effects on British farmers and breeders but also the wider investment and jobs generated by the UK food chain.”

June Arnold from the Grain and Feed Trade Association, said:

"EU member states are heavily dependent on imports of GM feed.  Those EU member states who decide to restrict GM feed imports will create an un-competitive disadvantage for their livestock sectors both in their domestic and export markets which will  most likely result in the closure of holdings, have a negative impact on livelihoods of farmers and  jobs not only in rural areas but also in the food industry."

“Opting out will lead to the fragmentation of the single market of agricultural products and disturb the logistics and balance of supply and demand of GM feed. There are no replacement proteins in sufficient volumes to import into the EU. All GM food and feed products marketed in the EU have already passed a robust independent safety assessment and such a decision will only lead to extra costs for the entire supply chain and no doubt risk opening WTO processes on barriers to trade.”


– ENDS –

The report is available online at www.abcinformation.org. 
For more information, please contact the abc secretariat:  Sandamali Sutton at +44 (0)20 7025 2333 or sandamali@abcinformation.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:
This paper has been prepared with expert input and advice from individuals and organisations across the agricultural technology, food and farming sectors. The messages and calls to action are supported by five leading plant science, farming and agricultural organisations:

  • Agricultural Biotechnology Council (abc),
  • National Farmers Union (NFU),
  • Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC),
  • Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta)
  • British Egg Industry Council (BEIC)

Three policy asks for the UK Government:

1. Supporting an evidence-based approach to agricultural biotechnology.
2. Continuing to take an active European leadership position on the issue.
3. Seeking and developing allies in other Member States to support the UK’s position.

Three policy asks for all UK political parties:

1. At UK level should continue the current evidence-based position.
2. At EU level should follow their national party line and seek to take leadership on the issue.
3. At all levels strongly reject any proposals for the nationalisation of decision-making on the import of GM feed and foods.

Report top-findings:

  • An EU-wide import ban for soyabeans would impact the EU economy by €26,1bn.
  • Without the same level of access enjoyed by producers elsewhere in the world, the UK and EU livestock sector becomes increasingly less efficient and increasingly less likely to be the supplier of livestock products to the UK and EU consumer. This also risks research and development being held back.
  • €9.6bn – The total forecast cost to the economy as a result of unduly delayed GMO import authorisations and the resulting trade disruptions.
  • Prices for non-GM soya for feed are already at a premium. Further costs associated with nationalisation proposals would mean further price rises for UK farmers and any price pressures in primary production will impact the onward food supply chain. Ultimately consumers will pay more.
  • 600% – The estimated increase in feed expenditure in the event of a two year import interruption if non-EU approved GM soyabeans were cultivated in the USA, Argentina and Brazil.

Comprising six member companies, abc works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies, including conventional and advanced breeding techniques, such as GM. These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions, while reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs. The companies are BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta. Further information is available at www.abcinformation.org
 

Download the full press release

Press Release: Developing countries lead the way in GM crop adoption- 28/01/15

According to new figures released today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global adoption of genetically-modified (GM) crops reached 181.5 million hectares in 2014, an increase of 6 million hectares from the previous year. There was also a notable increase in the number of farmers using GM crops, with 18 million farmers now using biotechnology, up by 600,000 from 2013.

Figures also show that the areas planted with GM crops in emerging and developed countries exceed those of industrialised countries for the first time since 1996. Bangladesh was able to successfully commercialise BT brinjal (aubergine) and is exploring GM cotton and rice. In Europe, Spain continued to lead the way with a record 31.6% adoption despite bureaucratic pressures from the EU.

Commenting on the publication of the figures, Chair of abc Dr Julian Little said:

“It is fantastic to see an increase in the number of farmers in the developing world enjoying the benefits of biotechnology, and today’s figures explode once and for all the myth that GM crops are all about big farming and big business.

One of the major advantages of GM is that the technology is contained within the seed, and therefore is just as accessible to resource-poor small-scale cotton farmers in Sudan as it is to large-scale soy farmers in Brazil or the US.

However, the dysfunctional EU system remains a concern, especially the new proposals. These effectively amount to a right to ban, rather than a right to grow for Member States. As such, they will prevent many countries for reaping the benefits of these highly tested and regulated crops.”

To view the full release, please go to: http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/49/default.asp


Notes to Editors:

1. abc is the umbrella group for the agricultural biotechnology industry in the UK. Comprising six member companies, abc works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies, including conventional and advanced breeding techniques such as GM.  These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions, whilst reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs. The companies are BASF, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta.

2. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor in developing countries. www.isaaa.org

3. For further information please call 020 7025 2333, email enquiries@abcinformation.org. Website www.abcinformation.org

Download the full press release

Press Release: abc welcomes Council for Science and Technology’s GM Science Update 14/03/14

Dr Julian Little, Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council today welcomed the publication of the GM Science Update report undertaken for the Council for Science and Technology, which reviews recent developments in the science of GM crops since 2009, reconfirming the safety of the technology, and concludes that ‘changes to the regulatory and approval process are essential.’

Commenting on the publication of the report, Dr Little stated:

“abc welcomes the Council for Science and Technology’s report, particularly its recognition that GM has the potential to ‘help achieve sustainable and sufficient global food production in the face of challenges from a growing population, climate change, and environmental degeneration,’ and that ‘there is no rational basis for the current stringent regulatory process.’ Current EU regulation has moved in the direction of increasing political influence and undermining science.
“The UK’s AgriTech Strategy has recognised the need for, and the value of, innovation in agriculture. Europe risks being left behind and it therefore remains essential that action is taken to address the dysfunctional EU approvals process so that UK farmers may, in the future, be able to realise the potential of great British biotechnology research right here in the UK. Over 18 million farmers are benefitting from GM crops internationally and UK farmers are keen to be given the choice to take advantage of the technology – recent polling of UK farmers found that 61 per cent would grow GM crops if they had the option to do so.
“abc will therefore continue to support the UK Government’s approach, and the growing coalition of organisations that recognise the need to for a sensible, fact-based approach to the use of GM and other agricultural technologies across Europe.”

The report confirms that biotech crops are among the most extensively tested foods in the history of food safety. In 2010, the European Commission concluded on the basis of over 25 years of independent research that 'there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.' Last year, the national science academies of the EU agreed, saying that “there is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment” than any other crops produced using plant breeding techniques.


If you would like any additional information please contact Andrew Marshall via andrew@abcinformation.org, or call 0207 025 2333.


NOTES TO EDITORS

Notes to editors

 abc, comprising of six member companies, works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies – including conventional and advanced breeding techniques, such as GM.  These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions, whilst reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs. The companies are BASF, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta. Further information is available at www.abcinformation.org.

 The GM Science Update report was undertaken for the Council for Science and Technology by Professor Sir David Baulcombe (University of Cambridge), Professor Jim Dunwell (University of Reading), Professor Jonathan Jones (Sainsbury Laboratory), Professor John Pickett (Rothamsted Research) and Professor Pere Puigdomenech (University of Cambridge / Barcelona).

 18 million farmers are now growing 175million hectares of GM crops around the world, which is up from 600,000 in 2011. Over 90 per cent of these are small scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, www.isaaa.org
 The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) said that “there is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment” than any other crops produced using plant breeding techniques.
Source: “Planting the future: opportunities and challenges for using crop genetic improvement technologies for sustainable agriculture”, European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), http://www.easac.eu/home/reports-and-statements/detail-view/article/planting-the.html

 The European Commission has invested over €300m into research on the safety of genetically modified organism (GMOs) over the past 25 years through 500 independent research groups.
Source: A decade of EU-funded GMO research,
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/1688

 An estimated 3 trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten around the world over the last 17 years without a single substantiated case of ill-health, as confirmed by the World Health Organisation has said that: ‘No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved’.
 

Download the full press release

Press Release: GMOs focus of renewed public discussion - New growing voices website goes live

EuropaBio has launched its new website - Growing Voices -  to cover the discussion around GM. Below is EuropaBio's press release:

Brussels: Wednesday, 22 January, 2014: Companies that develop genetically modified crops – or GMOs – are stepping up their engagement with the European public. They are responding to a growing demand for easy access to facts and examples of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.
The initiative, with the new, multilingual Growing Voices website as its flagship, is intended to make it easier for the European public to engage with the industry and to highlight growing voices calling for an EU rethink on GM crops.


Nathalie Moll, Secretary General at EuropaBio, said: “It is important that we, the biotechnology industry, listen to concerns raised by the European public and engage in an open discussion. We recognise that more needs to be done to share information about how agricultural biotechnology offers tangible benefits to farmers around the world and to society at large. We hope that the launch of the Growing Voices website is a step towards direct communication with EU citizens, who will be able to access information from a wide range of stakeholders that are in one way or another in contact with the technology and have a message to share.”


She added: “At the end of the day, it’s not about biotech versus organic versus conventional. It’s about coexistence of all forms of agriculture. It’s about understanding how and why agricultural biotechnology is a continuation of innovative breeding techniques in agriculture and why everyone should have the freedom to choose.”


Through video content, the Growing Voices website also highlights the increasing number of independent expert voices calling for European policy makers to think again about GM crops from as diverse backgrounds as NGOs, media, academia and science.


Julie Girling, Member of the European Parliament, said: “The EU has one of the strictest legal frameworks for approving GM products. Having said this, many of these products are still not allowed onto the EU market despite the strong scientific evidence proving their safety and efficacy. As a result many key industry players have already moved their GM production and R&D facilities out of Europe. This is a cause for concern, as the current backlog of EU approvals for new products could lead to a further significant decline in R&D in Europe with possible far-reaching consequences not only for our farmers but for the EU economy as a whole.”


For more information or to enter the conversation, visit www.growingvoices.eu or get involved on Twitter and Facebook.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Nilsy Desaint
Communications Manager
Green Biotechnology Europe, EuropaBio
Telephone: +32 2 735 03 13 / Mobile: +32 473 33 48 75
Email Address: info@growingvoices.eu
Website: http://www.growingvoices.eu

ABOUT EUROPABIO
EuropaBio is the European Association for Bioindustries, bringing together bioscience companies from all fields of research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of biotechnology products. It has 56 corporate members, 14 associate members and Bio Regions and 19 National Biotechnology Associations- representing some 1800 small and medium sized enterprises across Europe.

Download the full press release

Press Release: abc stresses overwhelming weight of evidence on safety of GM crops 22/10/13

abc stresses overwhelming weight of evidence on safety of GM crops

Commenting on claims by anti-GM campaign group the ENSSER on the safety of genetically modified organisms, Dr Julian Little, abc Chair said:

“Biotech crops are among the most extensively tested foods in the history of food safety. In 2010, the European Commission concluded on the basis of 130 research projects involving 500 independent groups over 25 years that 'there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms (1). This year, the representative body of the national science academies of the EU Member states agreed, saying that “there is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment” than any other crops produced using plant breeding techniques (2).

“An estimated 3 trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten around the world over the last 13 years without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The World Health Organisation has said that: ‘No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved’ (3).

“This is backed up by government regulators around the world, including the UK FSA, who have a responsibility to protect customers and the environment. The scientists at these independent organisations express confidence that reliable assessments of GM crop safety can be made and that the GM crops available to date are just as safe as conventional plants and foods.
“The overwhelming weight of evidence therefore points to the safety of these crops.”


Notes:
1. “A decade of EU-funded GMO research”, European Commission, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-10-1688_en.htm


2. “Planting the future: opportunities and challenges for using crop genetic improvement technologies for sustainable agriculture”, European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), http://www.easac.eu/home/reports-and-statements/detail-view/article/planting-the.html 


3. “20 questions on genetically modified foods”, World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/


Please also see the following websites of independent regulators for their scientific opinions on the safety of GM crops:

  • UK Food Standards Agency - http://www.food.gov.uk/gmfoods/
  • European Food safety Authority (EFSA) - http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/faqs/faqgmo.htm
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand - http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/gmfoods/
  • Health Canada - http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/index-eng.php
  • USA Food and Drug Administration - http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/Biotechnology/ucm346030.htm
  • Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare - http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/foodsafety/dna/01.html
Download the full press release

Comment: Revitalised GM debate gives hope to young researchers with a passion for plant science

 

Dr Eleanor Gilroy is a Molecular Plant Pathologist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland. The Institute is one of the UK’s largest research centres, with more than 600 scientists and staff engaged in environmental, crop and food science. Here, Dr Gilroy shares with abc her personal view of the prospects for agricultural technology research in the UK.

 

It was no co-incidence that I headed off to Edinburgh University having decided to study genetics six months after the Roslin Institute published their Nature paper describing the cloning of Dolly the Sheep.  In addition, the world was eagerly waiting for news about what we would learn from sequencing the human genome.  What an inspiring time to be heading off to university to learn more about genetics  and the potential  power it has to positively influence and improve the lives of everyone.

I had no idea that in the same year the first shipments of genetically modified (GM) soy and maize were arriving into Europe from the USA. People like myself had been inspired to learn about the use of plant genetics to address food security and climate change issues. Unfortunately, the media-fed public concern about genetic engineering of plant based foods was beginning to spiral out of control. 

The public reaction came as a surprise to many, as there had been general public acceptance of other GM technologies since the production of synthetic insulin from transgenic GM bacteria almost 34 years ago. At the time, the scientific evidence was insufficiently prepared to disprove all the claims that genetic modification techniques used in crop plants were unsafe. 

 

“The public reaction came as a surprise to many, as there had been general public acceptance of other GM technologies since the production of synthetic insulin from transgenic GM bacteria almost 34 years ago”

 

I had hoped that my research on the plant genetics of disease resistance would address some of the major environmental impacts of modern intensive agriculture, or help farmers in the developing world who could not afford crop protection products such as pesticides. But as my PhD project progressed, my dream looked less realistic. Supermarkets started withdrawing products known to contain GM products, as consumers raised issues of traceability, labelling and of course the safety of GMs in the environment and in the food chain.

Rapidly, consumer confidence in any plant product with a GM label was completely shattered and along with it, my confidence in and hopes for my chosen career deflated.

The European Union (EU) responded by extending its regulatory procedure through legal measures so that the authorisation procedure for placing a GMO on the market involved all Member States, the European Commission and the planned European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  This legislation on GMOs had the best of intentions, i.e. to protect human and animal health and the environment and, to ensure that cultivation, consumption and free-movement of GMO-derived foods/feed in the EU was safe.

However, its legacy has been so severe that it has left all but the largest breeding companies unwilling to take the financial gamble on translating scientific discoveries from universities and institutes into advanced crops using GM technology.  This is due to the inherent high costs of bringing the crops through the current risk assessment and legislative process in the EU and of course to on-going negative consumer perception. 

 

“The legacy [of EU  GM regulation] has left all but the largest breeding companies unwilling to take the financial gamble on translating scientific discoveries into MG technology”

 

So more than fifteen years after the GM crop debate began in the UK, how have the political, financial and scientific landscapes changed?  

Recent identification of pathogens like Escherichia coli 0157 in Europe’s fresh produce and discovery of horse meat purposefully substituting beef in large food processing factories has stimulated the public’s further mistrust of the authenticity and safety of the European food supply chain.  As the UK limps out of a recession, it is obvious that there has been an impact on a wide range of public and private investment in science, engineering and technology.  We are left wondering if it is at all significant that many of the countries whose economies have survived the global recession the best are those with a healthy investment of the highest percentage of their GDP into fundamental plant science and who actively encourage industry-led agricultural biotechnology.

The financial obstacles that Europe has faced over recent years, especially in terms of food production, have no doubt prompted discussions about how to better support Europe’s knowledge-based economy. In particular, how to prevent the accompanying brain drain and further demise of UK and Europe’s agricultural sciences and biotechnology industries.

Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the EU, has commented recently that “there is no substantiated case of any adverse impact [of GMOs] on human health, animal health or environmental health”.  In addition, she has also encouraged European business to reach out to “knowledge producers” and went as far as describing research institutes and universities as containing “a whole box of presents”.

The biggest challenge for the UK and European landscape are:

  1. The need to address the legislative environment surrounding GM crops and the incoherent, lengthy and expensive process by which GM products are approved (or not) for marketing; 
  2. To take on board the science based evidence for safety of specific products, and;
  3. To develop the cogent arguments and transparent discussions needed to develop a higher level of technology acceptance. 

 

“I am personally delighted that the GM debate is being revisited after the technology, itself, has been “incorrectly” labelled as unsafe for so many years”

 

There is a real need to revisit the definitions of GMOs in the light of new plant breeding technologies being developed which allow highly targeted changes to the plant genome.  On a case by case basis these technologies can mimic the outcomes of traditional breeding approaches, thus a product rather than a process based risk assessment is justifiable.

Many scientists, including myself, have frequently tried to address negative perceptions of GM by participating in public discussions and getting into classrooms to open up the debate. I am therefore personally delighted that the GM debate is being revisited after the technology, itself, has been “incorrectly” labelled as unsafe for so many years.

I am thrilled that it is acknowledged that UK and European institutes and universities have much potential still to exploit and that they have their supporters.  This gives far more hope to young European researchers and students, regardless of their country of origin or work/study, who cultivate a passion for plant science - They may after all have long, exciting and fruitful careers ahead of them addressing food security and climate change issues from a UK and European base.

 


Download the full press release

abc responds to Prof Seralini’s UK promotional tour

Dr Julian Little, Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, today responded to further claims from Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini about the safety of GM crops. He emphasised the overwhelming weight of evidence and scientific opinion pointing to the safety of biotechnologies. He also stressed the very clear analysis from independent regulatory bodies and other scientists rejecting Seralini’s claims for his 2012 study.

Commenting on Seralini’s UK tour to promote his ideas, Dr Julian Little, Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (abc), said:

     “The plant biotechnology industry takes all health concerns regarding biotech food and feed very seriously and is committed to the highest standards of testing and safety for its products.

     "Since publication of his study last September, the Seralini paper has been comprehensively analysed by leading independent experts and found to be a poor study from which no conclusions can be taken.

     "Biotech crops are among the most extensively tested foods in the history of food safety. In 2010, the European Commission concluded on the basis of 130 research projects involving 500 independent groups    over 25 years that 'there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.'

     "An estimated 3 trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten around the world over the last 13 years without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The World Health Organisation has said that: ‘No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved’

     "abc would like to see an open and informed debate on the role of biotechnologies as just one of many tools which farmers can use to increase yields sustainably. However, this debate must be based on scientific evidence.”

Analysis of Seralini’s claims by the European Food safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that “The study as reported by Séralini et al. was found to be inadequately designed, analysed and reported.”

The German Institute for Risk Assessment found that “A study of the University of Caen neither constitutes a reason for a re-evaluation of genetically modified NK603 maize nor does it affect the renewal of the glyphosate approval.“

Similarly, Food Standards Australia New Zealand said  “On the basis of the many scientific deficiencies identified in the study, FSANZ does not accept the conclusions made by the authors and has therefore found no justification to reconsider the safety of NK603 corn, originally approved in 2002.”


 

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • abc, comprising of six member companies, works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies – including conventional and advanced breeding techniques, such as GM.  These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions, whilst reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs. The companies are BASF, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta. Further information is available at www.abcinformation.org.

 

  • 17.3 million farmers are now growing 170.3 million hectares of GM crops around the world, which is up from 600,000 in 2011. Over 90 per cent of these are small scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries. (Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, www.isaaa.org

 

Download the full press release

EASAC report highlights ‘impediments’ to advancement of sustainable intensification in EU

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) has published its 'Planting the Future' report, which highlights areas in which the EU regulatory framework may be hampering our ability to develop more sustainable agricultural technologies. The group of independent scientific bodies claims, 'There is concern that a time-consuming and expensive regulatory framework in the EU, compounded by politicisation of decision-making by Member States and other policy inconsistencies, has tended to act as an impediment to the sustainable intensification of agriculture'.

It also notes that biotechnology needs to play a role if we are to deliver sustainble agriculture. 'Biotechnology for crop improvement must be part of the response to societal challenges,' the report states. 'The EU is falling behind new international competitors in agricultural innovation and this has implications for EU goals for science and innovation, and for the environment as well as for agriculture.'

A full version of the report is available here and a shortened summary version is available here.

For further resources on biotechnology, visit abc's Knowledge Hub.

Download the full press release

Press release: abc welcomes Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson’s Comments on GM

abc welcomes Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson’s support for GM crops at Rothamsted Research

Dr Julian Little, Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, today welcomed Owen Paterson’s comments on the need to examine the case for GM crops in more detail. abc believes strongly that the Government should create the right conditions for Britain’s innovative agricultural technology sector to become a leader in the global market.

Speaking after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s speech at Rothamsted Research, Dr Little said:

“GM technologies are already assisting farmers around the world to boost food security in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way. The mountain of evidence of the benefits gained by farmers through GM technology continues to grow, from higher crop yields to lower carbon emissions, and the UK cannot afford to be left behind.

“It is extremely encouraging to again hear the Government’s commitment to unlocking the potential of British agricultural science, and pushing the rest of Europe to follow a science-based approach to policy making. The UK benefits from a leading knowledge base in agricultural sciences for which there is a huge global marketplace, and the ability of UK institutes to capture this economic opportunity is dependent upon a supportive environment for such research from Government.

“Recent polling of UK farmers also suggests that 61 per cent would now grow GM crops following a disastrous 12 months of yields. It therefore remains essential that action is taken to address the dysfunctional EU approvals process so that UK farmers may, in the future, be able to realise the potential of great British biotechnology research right here in the UK.”

“Working with Europe to achieve a science based system will not be easy, current Brussels proposals move in the opposite direction of increasing political influence and undermining science, however we welcome the UK’s determination to support genuinely evidence based decision making in Europe.” 

"This echoes comments we have made in the past around our 'Going for Growth' report, highlighting the economic and agricultural benefits GM crops could bring to the UK'

If you would like any additional information please contact andrew@abcinformation.org or call 0207 025 2333.

Download the full press release

International Development Select Committee: GMOs could make a valuable contribution to food security

The House of Commons International Development Committee has today published its report into Global Food Security.

Commenting on the report, Dr Julian Little, Chair of abc said:

"abc welcomes the Committee’s recognition that GMOs have the potential to make a valuable contribution to food security. The UN forecasts that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, requiring a 70% increase in global food production. UK research into agricultural technologies is addressing this very real challenge today, and GM crops are already delivering higher yields in 29 countries around the world.

Furthermore, we welcome the Committee’s interest in the benefit of GMOs to smallholder farmers. GM crops are already being used by 17 million farmers in 29 countries, over 90 per cent of whom are small scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

One of the major advantages of GM is that the technology is contained within the seed, and therefore is just as accessible to resource-poor small-scale cotton farmers in Sudan as it is to large-scale soy farmers in Brazil or the US.”

If you would like any additional information please contact andrew@abcinformation.org or call 0207 025 2333.

Notes to editors

  • abc, comprising of six member companies, works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies – including conventional and advanced breeding techniques, such as GM.  These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions, whilst reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs. The companies are BASF, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta. Further information is available at www.abcinformation.org.
  • The International Development Committee’s report, ‘Global Food Security’, is available from their webpage at www.parliament.uk.
  • 17.3 million farmers are now growing 170.3 million hectares of GM crops around the world, which is up from 600,000 in 2011. Over 90 per cent of these are small scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

Source: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, www.isaaa.org

Download the full press release

A positive step towards a more sustainable approach to animal feed - 12/04/2013

12/04/2013

 

Commenting on announcements from Tesco and Cooperative that their suppliers and farmers will be free to choose GM feed for their poultry, abc Chair Dr Julian Little, said:

"Tesco and the Co-Operative's decisions to join Asda and Morrison’s in allowing the use of GM feed in the poultry supply chain are long overdue, and will be welcome news for British poultry farmers and hard-pressed consumers.

"GM crops play a vital role in the food supply chain, representing more than 70 per cent of the EU’s agricultural protein requirement. More than 3 trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been consumed to date without one substantiated health issue having been reported.

"Despite this, poultry farmers have faced restrictions on the use of GM feed, forcing them to pay at least a 10-15% premium for ever-shrinking supplies of non-GM soy. Feed remains the single biggest item of expenditure for most livestock farmers, representing around 60% of the costs of production. This unnecessary premium not only hurts producers but also puts pressure on the price of household staples like eggs.

"In allowing farmers the choice of using GM products as part of their feed supply, Tesco, the Co-Operative, Asda and Morrison’s have placed sustainability, science and consumers at the heart of their decision.

"We look forward to other retailers following suit."


Kelly Watson, National Farmers Union chief poultry adviser, has also welcomed the announcement, saying:

“The poultry industry has been struggling to secure supplies of non-GM soya as Brazilian farmers move to more sustainable GM alternatives, therefore it can no longer guarantee that the feed only contains non-GM soya. Tesco should be congratulated for taking this proactive approach and being open with its customers."


If you would like any additional information please contact Andrew Marshall in the abc secretariat at andrew@abcinformation.org or call 0207 025 2333.

Download the full press release

Developing countries lead the way in planting of GM crops

 

According to new figures released today by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), global adoption of genetically-modified (GM) crops reached 170.3 million hectares in 2012, an increase of 10 million hectares from the previous year. There was also a notable increase in the number of farmers using GM crops, with 17.3 million farmers now using biotechnology, up by 600,000 from 2011.

 

Figures also show that the areas planted with GM crops in emerging and developed countries exceed those of industrialised countries for the first time since 1996. Sudan and Cuba planted GM crops for the first time in 2012, whilst Brazil and Argentina continued their impressive growth in GM crops, with a total crop of nearly 37 million hectares and 24 million hectares planted respectively. However, in Europe, only Spain grew an appreciable amount of GM crops, with 116,000 hectares of insect-resistant maize grown last year.

Commenting on the publication of the figures, Chair of abc Dr Julian Little said:

“It is fantastic to see an increase in the number of farmers in the developing world enjoying the benefits of biotechnology, and today’s figures explode once and for all the myth that GM crops are all about big farming and big business.

One of the major advantages of GM is that the technology is contained within the seed, and therefore is just as accessible to resource-poor small-scale cotton farmers in Sudan as it is to large-scale soy farmers in Brazil or the US.

Wherever they are adopted around the world, biotech crops are increasingly popular with farmers for the simple reason that they deliver significant benefits over conventional varieties - helping farmers to increase their incomes, boosting yields and reducing their impact on the environment.

It therefore remains disappointing that the dysfunctional EU approvals process denies farmers and scientists the chance to unlock the potential of biotechnologies in the UK.”

Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science Adviser at the National Farmers Union (NFU) added:

“GM crops are a well-established part of the global agricultural supply chain. British farmers and growers operate their businesses within this global market and their competitiveness is affected by what producers do around the world.

If we are to meet the challenges of sustainable intensification and become more resilient to the pressures of pests and diseases, volatile weather and declining resources we need access to the best tools and technologies.

The current EU regulatory process for GMOs is broken and is denying UK farmers the choice to access this technology, which could deliver considerable benefits for them, their customers and the environment.”

To view the full release, please go to: http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/44/executivesummary/default.asp

Download the full press release

Science Not Fiction - Time to Think Again About GM

EuropaBio have published a report entitled 'Science Not Fiction - Time to Think Again About GM' which can be found here http://seedfeedfood.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/flipbook.pdf

Dr Julian Little, Chair of abc, welcomed the report’s contribution to the growing debate on the role for biotechnology in the global food chain:

“Over the past decade, anti-science campaigners have used scaremongering claims to try and dominate the coverage of advances in agricultural technology. Scientists and farmers have been frustrated that the massive contribution to global agriculture of advances in biotechnology has been overshadowed by media stunts and unscientific claims about the supposed risks of GM crops. In fact, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health.

“Unfortunately, this has denied UK consumers a balanced, fact-based public discussion on the role and importance of GM and other agricultural technologies in the food chain.

“The UN forecasts that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, requiring as much as a 70% increase in global food production. The Science Not Fiction report highlights the opportunity to put the confusion behind us and start focusing on this very real challenge which advances in agricultural technology are already helping to address.

“GM crops are already delivering higher yields for more than 16 million farmers in 29 countries around the world, adding more than 45 million tonnes of crops to global production annually. New GM crops in research and trials include disease-resistant bananas, flood-resistant rice, and wheat which releases the same natural product as mint to deter aphids.

“Giving consumers greater confidence in the science and safety of agricultural technologies will allow them to make an informed decision on the future role for such innovations in supporting global agriculture. This report will go one step further in demystifying the science and confining GM scare stories to the bin where they belong.”


George Freeman MP, Chair of the All Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, said:

"As the environmental and economic benefits of GM disease and drought resistant crops become clearer, particularly to those in the developing world facing fuel and food poverty, the alleged risks are increasingly seen to be imaginary.

"It’s time for a fresh look at the mounting evidence that GM crop technology is safe and potentially transformational in helping the most vulnerable around the world to feed and fuel themselves".

"Britain leads the world in medical genetics, and we could play a major role in applying our scientific leadership to help unlock a new Green Revolution to help feed the emerging world."

Download the full press release