Sustainable solutions for food security

29 Oct 2010

Farmers from around the globe visit the UK to highlight how their countries’ agriculture is embracing biotechnology

Farmers from around the globe are this week in Europe to share their experiences of using agricultural biotechnology. The benefits, they say, include improved food security and better incomes. They will be talking about how their political leaders have shaped policies that foster research and support innovations that help their families and communities.

Six farmers from Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, the Philippines and Uganda are participating in a series of meetings and events in Brussels, Paris and London to demonstrate how technological advances have improved their food and economic security. In London, farmers from Brazil and Uganda met with politicians in Westminster and UK farmers to talk about their own experiences of using biotechnology to improve yields and sustainability and to ask why European farmers do not have the same choices.

Mr Ivo Marcos Carraro, a farmer turned agronomist from Brazil, said: “I have farmed for many years and have spent 31 years in agricultural research. I now represent an 180,000 member co-operative growing soybeans and maize. Choosing technology, whether GM or any other, is a decision that depends on how well these technologies help us continue producing food despite the many problems we face. We have found that the technology helps control invasive plants and insects, as well as lead to a massive reduction of water, fuel and chemicals, and help soil protection.”

Mr Erostus Wilberforce Njuki, a banana grower from Uganda who now runs a research centre that undertakes research to tackle major constraints to banana production, said: “I have a 10 acre banana farm and like many other small banana farmers in Uganda, it is impossible to acquire disease-free planting material because of a condition that rots the plant. There is no way to control it. This is significant as over 10 million people and 65 per cent of the urban population depend on bananas as their staple food. To overcome these problems I run a research company that is using biotechnology to produce disease-free banana plant tissue culture. This technology helps us now but in the future we need to grow banana plants resistant to this disease and that is why we are looking to GM as a solution.”

Speaking after an event in Parliament, George Freeman MP said: “We know there is a growing global population and that agricultural output needs to double by 2030 to ensure fewer people go hungry. With increased scarcity of land, water and energy, we need to find solutions that help us meet this formidable challenge. The question is how? The farmers from Brazil and Uganda made it clear that we need all forms of technology to be made available to UK and European farmers if we are to keep up with the rest of the world.”

He went on to say: “Britain is a world leader in agricultural R&D and this should continue so that we have a significant role in accelerating development around the world.”

Speaking after an event at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, Martin Jenkins, a farmer from Cambridgeshire, said: “Europe is lagging behind in supporting the use of this technology with uncertain regulation and excessively long decision processes. What strikes me is that countries like Uganda are turning away from Europe and instead forming links with Asia where they are open to these technologies. Do we want to be left behind?

“The key for farmers in the UK and across Europe is having access to all forms of technology so we can make our own choices. This visit has shown that other countries are utilising the benefits of biotechnology to support their farmers, food supply and economic growth. Why on earth can’t we?”

For further information, please contact:
Emma Cerrone, abc secretariat:
Tel: 020 70252333
Mobile: 07789 635401