In his City Food Lecture, Niall FitzGerald rightly argues for a reassessment of GM foods. It is regrettable that a combination of poor PR with environmental hysteria has meant GM products have been perceived as “Frankenstein” foods. The potential benefits of GM are not purely lower costs and “margin-rich” functional foods. The real benefits will be to developing countries, with the advent of products that are drought and pest resistant, and enable the product to survive a longer route to market – critical factors in many countries. The global benefits are also considerable.
At the heart of the issue is our perception of nature and to a lesser extent our fear of agrochemical companies. Nature may be beautiful, but it’s cruel. Man has for years tampered with nature and this has generally benefited us (I never liked the idea of dying at 30). In our heated homes it is easy to be self-righteous. Organic produce has a role, but not at the exclusion of GM.
We need a balanced approach – a concerted effort to win both the hearts and minds of consumers.