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TITLE:  STRATEGY UNIT PUBLISHES ITS REPORT ON THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF GM
        CROPS
SOURCE: Strategy Unit of the Prime Minister, UK
        http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page4127.asp
DATE:   Jul 11, 2003

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   "- existing GM crops could offer some cost and convenience advantages
      to UK farmers;
    - however, any economic benefit to the UK is likely to be limited,
      at least in the short-term - only a narrow range of existing GM
      crops are currently suited to UK conditions, and weak consumer
      demand is likely to limit take-up;"
---------------------------------------------------------------------------


STRATEGY UNIT PUBLISHES ITS REPORT ON THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF GM CROPS

The Strategy Unit has today published its report into the overall costs
and benefits of GM crops.

"Field Work: Weighing up the costs and benefits of GM crops" sets out the
Strategy Unit's analysis of the overall costs and benefits of commercial
cultivation - or non-cultivation - of GM crops in the UK. It looks at
crops that are currently available and at possible developments over the
next 10-15 years.

The Strategy Unit project was commissioned by the Secretary of State for
the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, as one of
three strands of work on GM issues, along with the Public Debate "GM
Nation?" and the Science Review.

The Strategy Unit report - and any responses to it - will inform
Government decision-making and policy on GM crops and foods, alongside
the outcomes of the other two strands. However, the report does not
contain specific recommendations for Government.

The Strategy Unit's central conclusions are that:

- existing GM crops could offer some cost and convenience advantages to
UK farmers;

- however, any economic benefit to the UK is likely to be limited, at
least in the short-term - only a narrow range of existing GM crops are
currently suited to UK conditions, and weak consumer demand is likely to
limit take-up;

- looking to the longer term, future developments in GM crops have the
potential to offer more wide-ranging benefits, to farmers and to
consumers - possibilities include GM crops with agronomic benefits more
suited to the UK; GM crops delivering direct health benefits (e.g.
delivering foods with reduced allergenicity or added nutrients); or non-
food GM crops used as a source of pharmaceuticals and vaccines;

-  however, the overall balance of future costs and benefits will depend
on public attitudes, and on the ability of the regulatory system to
manage uncertainties.

Environment Minister, Elliott Morley said:

"The Strategy Unit has explored the economics of GM crops in a very open
and transparent manner. I am particularly pleased that they involved
experts and stakeholders from all shades of opinion to ensure there was
balance and rigour when examining this important issue.

"The report highlights that GM crops are one area in which GM technology
has significant potential to contribute to the UK's future economic
prosperity and sustainability. But it also points out that GM crops are
just one possible tool for achieving our goals - important advances in
crop production will also come from conventional and organic techniques.

"The report sets out a range of potential futures for GM crops in the UK.
These helpfully illustrate the trade-offs that will be involved whatever
approach the UK adopts to GM crops over the next 10-15 years. But quite
rightly, the report reiterates that consumers and retailers will play an
important part in shaping the future role for GM crops.

"We would very much welcome views and comments on the Strategy Unit's
report and conclusions."

Main conclusions of the report

The Strategy Unit study has recognised that neither GM crops nor the
alternatives to GM crops can be considered as ends in themselves. GM
crops are useful only if they are able to play a role in meeting
desirable objectives - environmental, social and economic - without
imposing unacceptable costs. It is on this basis that the Strategy Unit
has undertaken its analysis.


The Strategy Unit's main conclusions are that:

- GM crops could offer some cost and convenience advantages to UK farmers
now, and that future developments in GM crops have the potential to offer
more wide-ranging benefits both to farmers and consumers. However, at
least in the short-term, weak consumer demand is expected to limit the
demand for products containing GM foods, and therefore the economic value
of the current generation of GM crops. In the long-term, public attitudes
and the ability of the regulatory system to effectively manage
uncertainties, will be key determinants of costs and benefits.

-  Only a narrow range of crops and traits (herbicide tolerant varieties
of maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape) are available and suited to UK
conditions in the immediate future. While offering some benefits to
farmers, these crops do not yet offer discernible benefits to consumers.
But looking ahead, GM varieties of a wider range of crops could be
developed that are relevant to the UK - such as wheat and potatoes. And
future beneficial traits could include GM crops resistant to common UK
pests and plant diseases; foods with reduced allergenicity or added
nutrients; as well as the production of pharmaceuticals or vaccines from
non-food crops. Some of the same developments might also come from
conventional and organic techniques.

- Future decisions on GM crops will involve trade-offs between costs in
one area, and benefits in another. For example, a strict regulatory
regime reduces risks - which is important to the consumer - but also
carries financial costs, which may discourage companies from developing
GM crops and farmers from growing them.

- The potential impact of GM crop cultivation on non-GM and organic
farmers could also create trade-offs. The nature of the rules on the
growing of GM crops will determine how effectively they can be kept
separate from non-GM crops at the farm level. It will also determine the
level of costs faced by those growing GM crops, and the extent to which
non-GM and organic farmers may have to incur costs themselves in ensuring
the integrity of their products.

- Costs and benefits will vary between crops and traits, and the Strategy
Unit's overview analysis needs to be accompanied by case by case assessments.

- GM decision-making could impact on the UK's wider science based
industries, which make an important contribution to national output.
Decisions about GM will also impact on our international competitiveness,
and on the ability of developing countries to make informed choices on GM.



The Strategy Unit will be collating and publishing responses to its
report on its website. All the responses will be passed to DEFRA.

Send responses to GMCrops@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk or GM Crops Project
Team, Strategy Unit, 4th Floor, Admiralty Arch, The Mall, London SW1A
2WH, by Friday, 17 October 2003.


Notes To Editors

1. Copies of "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and Benefits of GM crops"
are available on the Strategy Unit website or by telephoning 020 7276 1881.

1. A review of the scientific issues led by Professor Sir David King is
expected to be published later this month. The independent steering board
which is managing the public debate GM "GM Nation?" is due to submit is
report to Government in September.

2. The Strategy Unit study was announced by the Project's Sponsor
Minister, Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs, on 26 July 2002.

3. DEFRA will take lead responsibility for the report's dissemination and
for ensuring that the report's analysis is reflected in future policy
decisions. Ministerial responsibility will rest with the Secretary of
State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, reporting to the
SCI(BIO) Cabinet Committee.

4. The Strategy Unit provides the Prime Minister and Government
departments with a capacity to analyse major cross-cutting and strategic
policy issues and to design solutions to problems. It was formed
following a merger of the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) and the
Prime Minister's Forward Strategy Unit in July 2002.

 


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