Under Great Britain's food security assessment released this month, the United Kingdom must assess how it will feed its future population, and some ministers and farmers believe the solution is to allow more genetically engineered feed into the country from the United States and South America.
The feed, which would contain GM soya and maize varieties, would be imported into the country because the climate in Great Britain is not favorable to such crops. In addition, these particular GMOs of soy and corn are not currently licensed in Europe.
According to the report released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, population growth and climate change could significantly impact the country's future food needs. Ensuring adequate supplies may entail putting pressure on the European Commission to support bioengineered crops for animal feed.
In the United States, Lisa Bunin, an organic policy coordinator with the Center for Food Safety, said if the U.K. is concerned about global warming, it should focus its energies on organic efforts; not expand licensing to allow more GMOs.
"When you look at organic crops, increasing research shows that organic crops more adaptable to global climate change," she said. "It is a bit of a rush to believe that importing GMO feed is the way to go without trying to improve the varieties that work well in that area, as opposed to moving toward less tested, less tried and true."
U.K. officials claim they are not rushing to approve more GMOs. They say the current food situation is secure, but the future could bring challenges. The government is asking for public comment on GMOs, as well as the entire report.
According to the London Times, ministers want the European Commission to approve more genetically engineered crops for livestock feed. Some farmers are warning the EC that if they can't use GM soya and maize to feed their animals, they may go out of business. But licensing would take years. Still, the commission could get around it by allowing farmers to use non-authorized varieties with no more than 0.9 percent genetically modified contamination while new licensing standards are developed.
None of it is etched in stone, however. The country is currently encouraging the discussion on GMOs, as well as other ways to increase food production. The government has invited food producers, retailers and consumers to offer ideas about what should be done to ensure a secure food system by 2030.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has said that the U.K. will have to feed up to up to 3 billion more people over the next 50 years. Following the release of the assessment, Benn said genetically modified crops could make a larger future contribution to the U.K.'s food supply.
"An increasing number of countries are growing GM products," he said on the BBC Radio earlier this month. "The truth is we will need to think about the way in which we produce our food."