on UK science?

For centuries, the Britain has been at the forefront of technological development and our economy depends on it. Biotechnology is among the most rapidly advancing branches of applied science and is seen as one of the main economic drivers of the 21st century. If the UK turns its back on commercial planting, there will be less incentive to conduct fundamental research, no need for development and the private sector will give up on Britain.

Indeed, they have already done so; all agricultural gene modification work in the private sector has now left the UK in favour of more welcoming countries. This not only sours the atmosphere for biotechnology in the UK as a whole, with the risk that other industries on which the UK depends heavily for export earnings will also decide that this country is not the place for them, but it also undermines our science base. Scientists will not work on developments if they see no reasonable prospect of them being put into practice.

will it increase our dependence on industrialised farming methods?

The use of biotechnological methods in agriculture has the potential to moderate and restrain the drive towards intensity in farming but it is illusory to suppose we can go back to mythical golden age of farming before there were machines and chemicals. It was a time when working farmers were often very poor and yields were much lower than they are today.

Modern farming methods are essential for maintaining an economic yield on the limited land resources we have available. Other styles of farming which use a great deal more land area and labour to obtain their products have to charge much higher prices for products which many people see as having no additional benefit.

• will it increase our dependence on lower diversity and chemical dependent farming?

No agriculture is free from chemical inputs. All life is based on "chemicals" and it is idle to suppose that crops can be grown without them.

However, by using GM crops, the dependence on pesticide chemicals will fall progressively and those chemicals which are used, are less toxic generally and less persistent in the soil. In time it might also be possible to lower the demand for nitrogen fertiliser either as ammonium nitrate or animal manure, but that is still some way off.


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31. What could be the effects of the commercialisation of GM crops in the UK?