GM and Food – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Here is the Q&A about GM and food:

What is your position on GM food and its impact on organic food producers?

Tractor in field

Angela Smith for webLabour is not fundamentally against GM food – it would be assessed on a case by case basis. The evidence suggests that GM may have a role in improving food production. GM food has been tested rigorously and all tests show it is safe. Labour would not stand in its way, as we need to find a way to feed the world and we need to be sensible about it. We cannot ignore rising world population and GM may have a role.

The EU’s use of the precautionary principle has held back the adoption of GM. Recent changes in legislation mean that the final decision is made by member states.

There is a market for organic food and that’s fine, both can exist.

On food generally, there is a need to change meat production methods to improve welfare standards. We also need to improve food security so things like the recent contamination with horse meat cannot happen again. The Food Standards Agency has been weakened in this government and Labour would bring it back.

Steven Jackson for webAs with fracking, decisions on GM must be science based and evidence based. The Conservatives think there is a place for GM food. Food security is vital and we should aim to make the UK at the cutting edge of GM development in the world. This is why the Government has launched the Agri-tech strategy and Food Enterprise Zones, which make it easier for farmers to expand in innovative ways.

Organic foods are fine if people want to eat them. They are safe for the environment, have better yields and long term production. But they have to be commercially viable and we need to be able to export them.

Audience Questions

What will be the impact of GM on organic farming? If an organic farm is next to one growing GM crops?

What are your views on slaughtering – stunning and non-stunning?

Why do we need to export food rather than feed people in this country?

Steven Jackson for webOrganic farming is booming. We want to see increased export of UK food, including organic. This is why we have set up UK Food and Drink to increase food exports. We need a chain of custody so people know where there food has come from and to maintain standards across the board.

We need good food labelling, with such things as where it is from and whether it contains GM. The Conservatives are renegotiating the CAP (EU Common Agricultural Policy) as it is not working for our farmers. We want to cut red tape and get the best deal for our farmers.

Angela Smith for webStunning / not stunning is an EU decision and Labour MEPs led the way in framing legislation on slaughter.

Food security is important at home, but I do not have a problem with exporting food. Milk is now cheaper than water, which means dairy farmers are struggling to make a living from just selling milk. They may benefit from exporting products such as cheese and yoghurt, which have more value than the raw milk.

The Conservatives cut back our protection in the CAP. There is a role for Britain in the EU.

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