Europe should rethink its stance on GM crops

28.06.2013

NATURE | COLUMN: WORLD VIEW

Published 26 June 2013

Second-generation crop genetic-modification techniques avoid some of the issues that previously provoked hostility, argues Brian Heap.

Countries in the European Union (EU) are losing ground in the international race to grow more food on increasingly scarce land. This has serious and urgent implications for the EU science base and the environment, as well as for domestic food security, employment and economic growth. It is down to the slow and expensive way that the continent regulates genetically modified (GM) organisms.
 
Historical attitudes and actions of the EU have constrained the use of GM crops — both at home and in developing countries. The region must now base its regulations in this area on sound science, as it has promised to do. An early test of this commitment will be the EU’s approach to the next generation of crop genetic-improvement technologies. These techniques allow scientists to generate plant varieties with desired traits more precisely, rapidly and efficiently than with conventional breeding.