Farming

Princess Anne steps in on GM crops

GM ‘has important benefits’: Princess Anne

PRINCESS ANNE has once again expressed controversial views on farming in an interview with the BBC’s Farming Today programme.

Princess Anne told BBC Radio 4 that she would farm using genetically modified (GM) crops on her own land, claiming the crops have ‘important benefits’ and that GM livestock would be a ‘Bonus’. She claimed genetically modifying farm animals could lead to welfare and production improvements.

She also apparently went against the precautionary principle – the concept on which environment legislation is based – telling the farming programme that “To say we mustn’t go there ‘just in case’ is probably not a practical argument.”

Anne, who farms on her Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire said, “GM is one of those things that divides people but surely if we are going to be better at producing food of the right value, then we have to accept that genetic technology is going to be part of that.

“I do think that in the future gene technology has got real benefits to offer, which will maybe have an occasional downside, but I suspect not very many.”

Her brother Prince Charles is a prominent adherent of organic farming, and has said GM crops could cause an “environmental disaster” in the past.

This not the first time the Princess Royal has caused controversy with her pronouncements on farming; in 2014, at the height of debate about the government’s costly and controversial badger culls, she advocated gassing badgers. Gassing, however, has been illegal in the UK since 1982 and Princess Anne was roundly criticised by animal rights campaigners after her remarks were widely reported.

In October last year, responding to a Parliamentary question, farming minister George Eustice admitted that the government was already looking into possible future regulations for GM crops, just four months after the Brexit vote. UK governments have consistently upheld a pro-GM position in debates in the EU, where most member state governments are opposed to the crops.

Within the UK, the devolved governments have pledged to remain GM-free.

Deep-seated opposition has seen just one GM crop commercially cultivated in the EU over the past 20 years.

In the UK, as in many other countries, there have been several trials, including GM wheat, but nothing has ever been licensed.

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