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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 16:18 GMT
Lord Haskins criticises GM opposition
Lord Haskins, the government's rural recovery coordinator
BBC Wales lecture: The Future of Food and Farming
One of the UK Government's chief advisors on farming has criticised the Welsh Assembly's opposition to genetically-modified (GM) crop trials in Wales.

Lord Haskins, the Rural Recovery co-ordinator for England, likened attempts to stop GM crop trials to King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in.

We are only going to be shooting ourselves in the foot if we don't allow our farmers to test GM crops

Lord Haskins, UK Rural Recovery co-ordinator
He defended GM crops as an important component in future efforts to feed a growing world population.

"These GM trials are taking place and commercial GM activity is taking place in America, in South America, in Australia and in Asia," he said.

"We are only going to be shooting ourselves in the foot if we don't allow our farmers to test them."

A field test of GM maize
Crops to feed humanity: A field test of GM maize
Lord Haskins made the comments in a BBC Wales sponsored lecture to the Cardiff University Regeneration Institute on Wednesday night.

It was the second in a series of public lectures sponsored by the BBC, in association with the Regeneration Institute.

In Wales, the assembly has opposed GM maize trials.

Lord Haskins was also scornful about the potential of organic farming, which the assembly also supports.

However, he did back efforts to subsidise environmentally-friendly farming activity.

Scientific advances

During the lecture, Lord Haskins considered the ongoing food debate, in the light of the world's growing population.

Lord Haskins
Lord Haskins: Organic farming would lead to a shortage of food
He argued that man's ingenuity - which has resulted in a major increase in food production over the past two centuries - will solve the problem of having to double existing food production in the next 30 years.

He cited advances including progress in animal and plant-breeding science, as well as in the development of fertilisers, fungicides and herbicides.

Lord Haskins argued the future demand can be met in genetic modification raising food outputs to "spectacular heights".

He also felt that satellite technology would squeeze vital improvements from harvests and the elimination of inefficiencies in agricultural industries across the world.

BBC Wales's Roger Pinney
"A controversial figure, Lord Haskins was appointed the Government's Rural Recovery co-ordinator in the wake of foot-and-mouth
See also:

06 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Lord Haskins
18 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Farmers 'face winter hardship'
14 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Look to future, farmers told
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