Wivenhoe: Farmer backs GM food

AN ESSEX farmer who was at the centre of controversial genetically modified (GM) trials more than ten years ago, has welcomed Government calls to allow the practice to be introduced in the UK.

Jim Dutton, of Sunnymead Farm in Wivenhoe, said GM farming was “long overdue” in this country and that it was time the public understood the benefits it can bring to the industry.

In 2001, Mr Dutton’s farm was damaged by protesters when he grew GM maize during a Government test trial which led to security guards being deployed and infra red sensors and CCTV cameras being installed.

It comes after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said GM food should be grown and sold widely in Britain and opponents of the technology are talking “humbug.”

Jim Dutton said: “I totally agree, it’s long over due. It’s very logical what he is saying.”

He said he is currently growing some GM potatoes in a secure section on his now 70 acre farm which is resistant to blight. He said grown more widely, it would save potato farmers a lot of time and money.

“Doing away with pesticides would be a brilliant step forward and the more we can help with that side of things the better,” he said.

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During an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Paterson said: “Emphatically we should be looking at GM... I’m very clear it would be a good thing.

“The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods.

“There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits.”

But campaign group GM Freeze, which is backed by the Concerned Residents of Wivenhoe (CROW) group, said Mr Paterson’s comments are factually inaccurate and ignore the UK Government’s own data from field trials that showed GM crops harm wildlife.

The coalition has allowed small-scale cultivation trials for GM food but widespread use is effectively banned.

Some GM products are contained in imported foods, but most supermarkets have banned the ingredients from their own-brand products because of public unease about the material.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: “Mr Paterson seems to be formulating policy from an evidence base provided by the agri-biotech industry and ignoring the Government’s own data showing GM harms wildlife. He needs to consult more widely with people who understand the evidence.

“Mr Paterson has got his facts wrong as well as fundamentally misunderstanding why GM is not grown or sold in the UK. If shops thought they could sell GM food they would be doing it. The fact is the UK does not grow GM crops because the Government’s own Farm Scale Trials showed a decade ago that GM harms wildlife already threatened by industrial farming.”

The Government has recently run a consultation exercise about new “agri-tech” measures to increase the efficiency of British farms and a formal ministerial response is due next year.

Mr Paterson said: “There’s about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world. There isn’t a single piece of meat being served (in a typical London restaurant) where a bullock hasn’t eaten some GM feed. So it’s a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe.”

Asked if GM crops could ever become a widespreead reality in the UK, Mr Dutton said: “It depends on the public but from the people I speak to in Wivenhoe, there is only one person I know against it.

“The PR against GM crops when it was trialled last time was brilliant, it frightened the public talk all the talk of Frankenstein foods.

“But there has been no harmful effects attributed to GM foods.”

Mr Dutton grew GM maize for two years for Aventis.