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Genetically Modified Crops

Volume 703: debated on Monday 30 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which genetically modified crops have potential for increasing food production if grown in (a) Great Britain or (b) the European Union; what would be the likely increase in production in respect of each crop; and what scientific evidence exists to support their view; and [HL4353]

What alteration there would be in production costs per unit of output for genetically modified food crops, compared with conventional crops. [HL4355]

At present, genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and oilseed rape crops are being grown in various countries, mainly for animal feed use. These crops have been modified for resistance to certain insect pests or weedkillers. They have not been modified to confer an intrinsic yield benefit, although they may increase production indirectly, by, for example, reducing the level of pest damage relative to that experienced with the equivalent conventional crop. They may also reduce production costs by facilitating lower pesticide usage. The same thinking applies to other GM crops under development with new traits like drought-tolerance and disease-resistance. If successful, these could increase production in areas with difficult growing conditions and therefore be part of the solution to meeting future challenges.

It is not possible to give precise estimates for the likely effect that the cultivation of GM crops would have in the UK or European Union (EU) on the level and cost of food production. The impact would vary depending on the type of crop in question and the specific context in which it was used. Consistent with this, the available evidence on current GM production outside the EU reports variable impacts in different regions and growing seasons.