In recent years, the issue of biotechnology has been raised a great deal by politicians, the media and industry stakeholders within the UK and Europe in the context of addressing challenges to food security caused by changes in consumer preferences, increased demand and overall consumption. The UK Government is also now raising the level of this debate, bringing with it discussions on the merits of biotechnology.
There is a great deal of misinformation within this debate. Biotechnology is often perceived to be synonymous with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), but this is not the case. It is crucial that agricultural biotechnology is recognised as a sector that encompasses a broad range of technological applications, including in the areas of livestock, disease, cereals and feeds, and respective genetic, conventional or mechanical modifications. There are equal misconceptions over the nature of GMOs and GM products in food, and their perceived effects on the environment, non-GM producers, livestock and human health, which are further explored in this report.
The scope of the debate does not only relate to improving productivity to meet future food challenges. Agricultural biotechnology in the UK already makes a significant contribution to the national and rural economies; providing some of the leading private and public research facilities in agriculture. With other European and non-European states putting further resources into their biotechnology sectors, it is important that the Government continues to support research in biotechnology tailored towards British agriculture, while better co-ordinating industry stakeholders and funding bodies to deliver more tangible benefits on the ground.
It is arguably in the interests of landowners that the CLA promotes a comprehensive biotechnology strategy to ensure that producers and landowners are able to choose from the full range of technologies available to them. It is equally important that there are necessary safeguards in place for those who choose not to use such biotechnological methods.