What farmers think about GM crops

February 24, 2008

Farmers are upbeat about genetically modified crops, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

A group at the Open University, led by Professor Andy Lane, has taken the first systematic look at what large-scale, commodity farmers – not those mainly involved in organic growing - think about genetically-modified crops. We know how consumers, governments and the food industry regard GM, but this is the first proper look at the attitudes of the people who would use GM crops.

Lane and his colleagues found that both farmers who have been involved in GM crop trials and those who have not, regard GM as a simple extension of previous plant breeding techniques, such as those which have produced today’s established crop types. They regard GM crops as an innovation which they would assess on its merits. Their real interest is in how GM crops would work in practice and whether they can contribute to the profitability of their farms. The research suggests that these farmers do not think that GM raises any issues of principle, or that it is a matter of right or wrong.

Professor Lane said: “New technology such as GM is attractive to farmers. They want to produce high-quality food profitably and they want to farm in an environmentally sensitive way. GM may allow them to reconcile this conundrum by doing both of these things at once.”

A particular advantage of GM is its potential to allow farmers to grow crops with high yields while using less herbicide. This involves new management practices. Lane and his colleagues found that farmers who have been involved in the Farm-Scale Evaluations to assess GM in action have found GM crops feasible to grow.

The researchers also looked at how farmers learn about new developments such as GM. They found that most of the learning farmers do is informal, for example by experimentation or from their networks, which are made up from a wide range of people not necessarily just farmers. These networks can extend over long geographical distances.

Many farmers disapprove of past cuts in public funding for agricultural advisory services. It is now complicated and expensive for farmers to get good advice. They also feel that there is poor communication between farmers and people involved in agricultural policy, and between farmers and relevant scientific research.

Source: Economic & Social Research Council

Explore further: Cultural cross-fertilisation to rescue soils

Related Stories

Cultural cross-fertilisation to rescue soils

February 13, 2018

Sharing best practice farming techniques with farmers from different cultures and traditions could help increase the quality of our soils – a vital step in ensuring that we can grow enough food for people in the coming ...

Ravaged by a poorly studied disease, cacao trees are dying

February 15, 2018

Picture this: It's Valentine's Day, and you head out to buy some pralines. Except you can't find any. No matter which store you visit, gummy bears and hard candy have taken the place on the shelves where the chocolate hearts ...

Recommended for you

Unprecedented study of Picasso's bronzes uncovers new details

February 17, 2018

Musee national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musee national Picasso-Paris' ...

Using Twitter to discover how language changes

February 16, 2018

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, have studied more than 200 million Twitter messages to try and unravel the mystery of how language evolves and spreads.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Feb 25, 2008
First there's genetically engineered crops. Then genetically engineered cattle. The final stop on this crazy thrill ride is genetically engineered humans. Anyone watched the movie 'Gataca' recently?
Soylent
not rated yet Apr 08, 2009
First there's genetically engineered crops. Then genetically engineered cattle. The final stop on this crazy thrill ride is genetically engineered humans. Anyone watched the movie 'Gataca' recently?


First it's anti-GM, then it's anti-pesticide and anti-fertilizer. The final stop is organic farming with deindustrialization and a population collapse.

See? I can invent ridiculous slippery slopes too.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.