[Fonte: Bloomberg] British farmers could get the chance to plant genetically modified crops as part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans.
The new prime minister wants the U.K. to “liberate” its bioscience sector from rules against genetically modified organisms, he said in his first full speech since taking office this week. That would mark a shift from much of the European Union, which largely has restrictions on such crops amid concerns about environmental or health impacts.
“Let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world,” Johnson said Wednesday. The National Farmers Union cheered the comments, saying the move may help farmers use the best technology and be competitive.
Johnson’s stance highlights the shakeup that may be coming to the U.K.’s farming sector as the country prepares for Brexit. Some opponents are worried that new trade deals could lead to Britain shifting its stance on food products such as seeds and chlorine-treated chicken. After talks with the U.S. earlier this year, a spokeswoman for former Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. wouldn’t lower food standards in any deals.
While uncommon in Europe, GMO crops are a mainstay in many of the world’s top crop producers. Much of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S., Brazil and Argentina have come from GMO seeds for years, and Spainsows some of the crops. There are also such varieties of cotton, canola and sugar beet around the world.
In a recent report, the World Resources Institute said genetic modification is key to helping feed a growing global population as the world faces warmer weather and scarcer water supplies. Biotechnology holds “genuine and exciting solutions” to help producers cope with challenges, Helen Ferrier, chief science and regulatory affairs adviser at the U.K.’s farmers union, said in a statement.
Johnson’s proposals could encourage more research investment into the sector and will be welcomed by the industry, which has long felt “restrained” by the EU’s position on biotechnology and lengthy delays in approvals, IHS Markit crops specialist Sanjiv Rana said by email.
However, it could be a while before GMO crops are widely adopted in Britain and sales to the EU will remain a barrier. While the bloc does import some GMO crops, they’re subject to an approval process, and it may take time to develop seeds suitable to the U.K.’s climate and needs.
The industry may also have to spend more time and money keeping GMO crops separate from traditional varieties until they gain market access, said Dylan Bradley, senior analyst for IHS Markit.
“It’s not enough just to say the government’s OK with it,” Bradley said. “It has to be commercially viable.”
— With assistance by Tatiana Freitas, and Jonathan Gilbert
Photographer: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe