Wednesday, October 10, 2018

GM bonanza after Brexit?

Producers of GM crops have called on ministers to abandon European environmental rules after Brexit. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council repesents BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta.

Top biotech companies have long been frustrated by rules that have prevented the sale and development of new GM products in Europe. They have the support of the American administration which is likely to make access for GM seeds one of the conditions of a US-UK trade deal.

Mark Buckingham, chairman of the council, said that under the existing system 'a generation of British farmers have operated without technology that is taken for granted around the world while the EU is known for its political regulatory decisions.'

Any move to allow the commercial cultivation of GM crops in the UK would be strongly opposed by environmental groups. The Government might wonder whether it would be worth spending political capital on the issue when they are under pressure on many other fronts, but the US would push on the issue. This is a more serious concern than chlorinated chicken, although I am not taking a position one way or the other on GM crops.

It should also be noted that the EU would be unlikely to accept exports of GM grains from the UK, just as they would not accept crops grown with pesticides they have banned. It is not realistic to think that UK agriculture can become a regulation free zone after Brexit, although some farmers may have been swayed by that hope when they voted in the referendum.

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