The animal feed sector would benefit from cheaper supplies of raw materials if GM crops were grown in the UK according to the findings of a new report commissioned by HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
Designed to assess the all-sector benefits and drawbacks of adopting GM cereals and oilseeds crops in the UK on an “independent evidence-base, free from distortion and speculation” basis, the report’s headline conclusion is that farmers, consumers and the animal feed supply chain would all gain from such a move.
On animal feed impacts, in particular, it finds that, in addition to the possibility of cheaper supplies of raw materials becoming available if GM crops were grown, farmers might also benefit from crops with an “enhanced nutritional profile”, giving them higher protein levels.
“This would be beneficial to livestock producers enabling lower production costs and higher margins,” it is stated.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Reading, the report summary also includes the warning that unless British farmers are allowed to grow GM crops in the future, the competitiveness of farming in the UK is likely to “decline relative to that globally”.
In releasing the report, however, HGCA’s research team leader, Dr Vicky Foster, acknowledges that the ultimate decision on GM may still rest with consumers.
“We recognise that GM is an emotive subject but this report is specifically focused on the science, rather than consumer acceptability of GM products,” she said.
“However, we live in a market economy and farmers and processors are reliant on consumer demand for their products. Although this study demonstrates there would be tangible benefits to farmers and the environment in certain GM crop production scenarios, ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the consumer.”