back to article UK.gov serves up GM food as price hike fix

The government's former chief science adviser Sir David King has said genetically-modified crops represent our best chance for improving yields sufficiently to deal with current food price problems. According to the FT, King said: "There is only one technology likely to deliver [the yield increases needed] and that is GM.... We …

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Bronze badge

What is he on?

Farming has been in decline in the UK for years. We don't need GM and there is no "fresh water" problem for us.

Seems me he's trying to mis-quote sources for his own ends again!

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Supermarkets!

I completely agree food waste in the UK is too high - but lay a huge wedge of the blame on supermarkets. Our local Sainsbury's fruit and veg almost _never_ lasts more than a day or two and I'm convinced it's to keep me going back to the store - and to do this, I'm pretty sure it must just sit out the back or in warehouses for days until it's nearly ruined.

Then when their short-shelf-life produce finally makes it to the shelves, a lot is destined for deep discounting or the bin.

Perhaps if they got the food from the local farms and into the store quicker, and thereby with a longer shelf-life, I'd be buying more fruit and veg there, and there'd be less waste!

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or...

grow crops that actually yield in the environment they are growing in...

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Happy

The solution!

Someone needs to invite a car that runs on waste food.

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Isn't this

what the experts- and any engineer, scientist, humanitarian or even "armchair scientist" worth their salt- have been saying for years, only to be beaten back by yet another of Labour's committees?

And doesn't Urgent = Rush = Unplanned Mess? Especially for Labour?

Also, we've got hundreds of years of Coal. Lets just properly use our land and go back to an age of Steam. With computers.

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Superficial argument

Were GM foods a solution, which I doubt, they'd only be a band aid measure. We've too many people in the world and until the entire human population realises that and acts in concert to bring our total population count down, we're on course for an inevitable resource-war which will do the job for us.

That aside, GM crops form a single-point-of-failure in the food chain due to a lack of bio-diversity, and everyone reading this website should know how stupid designing systems with a SPF are.

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Anonymous Coward

Won't reduce price

All it does is shift the price from the cost of irrigation to the cost of GM seeds.

Myself, if there's a water shortage problem, I'd prefer to spend the money fixing *that* problem rather than trying to fix up the effects of the problem.

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Paris Hilton

Oh right...so nothing to do with EU Rebates...

that the rest of the Europe and the world is talking about.

At least he knows what he is talking about*

(* - Statement may contain sarcasm)

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British consumers waste a third of the food they buy

Based on what???? Did they do some dodgy calculation based on weight which would include the packaging as a waste?

There is no way on earth joe public throws 30% of their food shop away... unless its those pesky knife wielding kids, in which case force feed them instead of being a pansy parent, god damn it!

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Stop Screwing

It all these silly people stop screwing there won't be food/water shortages. There are far, far too many people on the planet right now, and unless a bunch just want to fall over dead for us, then people have got to stop reproducing.

If the governments of the world want to ensure there's enough food they should pay people to be sterilized.

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Pirate

The way to cut food costs...

... Is to reduce the tax on fuels required to grow, transport, and power equipment used to farm staple crops.

But hey, this is the United Kingdom of X-Factor and Apathy. Let's wait until they they replace Big Brother Series 74 with a camera in your OWN home for the general populace to pay attention. In the end, that's what it will take.

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Linux

Pinky & Perky

You couldn't see this coming could you...... Why are the politicians so dishonest and such pawns of the GM food lobby.

IMHO, GM food crops are the wrong solution to an incorrectly framed problem.

As much as there is a food production problem there is also a food distribution problem and the two are linked by energy. More food, locally produced, in non-distorted markets should be a first priority and then, if that doesn't do the job, re-look at GM as part of a solution set. 30% of the Earth's surface is land and not all that is suitable for growing crops. 70% of the Earth's surface is mobile water. How about using a bit of the sea to generate energy rather than GM crops on land.

I know, I know..... I need to stop smoking and take better therapy.

Mines the one with the flippers in the pocket.

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W
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Re: British consumers waste a third of the food they buy

"Based on what???? ... There is no way on earth joe public throws 30% of their food shop away."

I second that emotion. </ Smokey Robinson>

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Set aside

The government pays farmers to not grow crops - they call this set-aside. Now they say we must all buy less food because there's a shortage. But they are the ones paying farmers not to grow it!? I say it's time for set-aside - set-aside the government that is.

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Anonymous Coward

<no title>

In the unlikely event there is a food shortage problem, then it wouldn't be a supply side problem but a demand side one. An excessive number of people creates more problems than just food levels.

But you have to admire the cheek of politicians, don't you? Encourage food price rises by obliging the use of bio-fuels, then claim GM is needed to solve any problem they encouraged. Is it heck as like. They know what they can do with their tainted DNA plants, and I don't mean feed them to their kinds on TV.

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We're all incredibly economical . . .

If the third we throw away could save us £420 a year, then our food bill must be £1260. i.e. £24 a week, and an average family could afford to live on £16 a week. That's 19 pence per person per meal.

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Dead Vulture

How about this...

... the government actually gets farming back on its feet after beating the living crap out of it in the UK for the last 30years (probably more). Most people would most likely be repulsed to find that farmers are given 'set aside' grants to actually not produce crops :O

Farmers would much prefer to make a living doing what they do best instead of 'diversifying' into other markets, including taking second jobs in some cases working in the supermarkets that pay them a pitance for the food that they do produce, seriously its all arse about face in farming these days and I am just glad our family got the hell out of it 10 years or so back, its a soul destroying 'industry' now.

Dead bird icon, because it symbolises farming since the 80's

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Re: British consumers waste a third of the food they buy

I think they've actually based this figure on John Prescott.

Actually, there's some truth to the idea that the supermarkets set a "use by date" long before the food actually starts to go off. It's designed to protect them from being sued and has the handy benefit of getting you back into the store to buy another one soonish. Of course, we're complicit in this because we take one look at the label and go "bugger, these sausages were use by yesterday, they'll surely kill me if I make a casserole out of them today" and throw them away. I used to be as guilty of that as anyone. About the only things I worry about Use By on now are chicken and eggs and even then, chicken is freezable.

So, yeah, food prices are going up and it's all our fault now, not the Chancellor or the ex Chancellor, anything to do with increased oil prices, tax on diesel for transport companies, subsidies for biofuel crop growth etc... no it's because you don't clean off your plate you ungrateful taxpaying scum!

Actually, that bloke who does the spoken part at the beginning of "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" ... that's Gordon, that is!

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IT Angle

First rule of Supply and Demand

When prices rise, demand drops (see petrol). The cost of food in this country is reliant more on the price of oil than the value of land, since we grow so little ourselves these days. The cost is in transporting it to our doors.

When demand is sufficiently high, you get "economies of scale". When demand drops therefore, as would happen if we all spent £8 less on food (another fantastic case of foot-in-mouth by our incumbant lizard), there is no saving to be made and one might more logically expect prices to rise.

There is no water shortage here in Britain, only a problem of route. It all runs off the many miles of tarmac and concrete straight into rivers and out to sea. There is so much of it (hugely excess supply) that there is no value to justify the cost of fixing the drainage system.

What then, you might ask, does all this have to do with the proposal to boost genetic modification to our food suppply? The answer, as I am sure you have already guessed, is bugger all. GM is still largely untested. The original trials were such a farce that "copyright" biological material escaped into the wider environment. That's the way nature works. Rather now than fund safe, effective and repeatable trials, we get three helpings of double-speak crap from the big fat tw@.

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Joke

Obvious solution...

... mandate 24x7 reruns across all channels of "The Good Life".

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Paris Hilton

Can anyone spot the missing link ...

.. in the chain connecting Labour's bills and policies in recent years? Anyone? Anyone? No, I'm not surprised you didn't get this one, it was in fact a trick question. There is nothing connecting anything Labour has proposed in the last couple of terms, this is because they're utterly incapable of collective joined-up thinking, and are completely prone to rich lobby groups.

Paris, cos she'd end up proposing the same things as Gordon Brown if she were PM.

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Re: Supermarkets!

I've found that buying the organic versions of onions/potatoes/root veg/etc. last longer. I mean, for crying out loud, these things should last MONTHS. One of the reasons why you have lots of onion/beet/potato in winter food is because these things are stored in dark cool cellars for winter AND LAST.

But the supermarket versions last what? A week? If you're lucky.

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Happy

Food and populaton crisis averted.

Here at the Soylent Corporation we have developed a solution that will enable us to maintain food supplies no matter how large the population becomes. A whole new new world of green cuisine is just around the corner.

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GM lobbying

It might be possible to give this some consideration, if Brown and cronies sounded less like they were barking from the end of a GM corporate leash. The idea of sticking global food output at the whims of shareholding types appeals not at all.

Population is far more of an issue than GM.

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How long

Apples off a tree lasts months, still edible, if going a bit soft.

From the 'super'market they are getting up and crawling to the bin themselves within a week or two.

I'm also guessing, that they don't mean consumers, but include 'super'markets in this. They have a huge amount of waste.

So, GM can make food healthier? So humans, which have evolved over the last 6000yrs when we were placed here, didn't evolve to make most efficient use of the naturally growing product of the local area? Do they still teach evolution at school? Or do these politicians think it is just another RE lesson?

They seem to focus on it being origin of man, instead of a decent biology lesson - you know, human habitat interaction.

Natural food, and a happy stress free life is the best that man (or woman) could want.

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Coat

I want to know where he shops...

If he can feed the average family* on just over a grand a year. Bet it ain't supporting the local butcher and greengrocer.

*(even if, according to the Daily Mail, the "average family" is a 14yo illegal immigrant single mother with 25 feral knife-wielding kids who each smoke 500 fags a day paid for by OUR TAXES, rioting in the streets and rivers of blood, What Would Churchill Say? "Oh yes.")

The one with Netto Baked Beans in the pockets, ta...

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Joke

Don't watch what you eat.

The government will watch what you eat for you.

That's what they need the biometric IDs and security cameras for.

Now if somebody can just dig up a photo of Gordon Brown making a campaign stop in a restaurant and talking to the customers we can subtitle it "Are you going to eat that?"

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Actually...

The simplest way to reduce food costs and supply enough to feed the population is to stop feeding grain and soya to animals in feedlots. The US could support three or four times its current population by switching its grain harvest from animals to humans.

This doesn't mean a veggie world, it means meat becoming relatively more expensive; but the meat we would get would be tastier.

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Re: Actually...

I don't know about you, but I don't eat that much wheat and soya.

Meat is an excellent way to turn marginal land into saleable product.

It's overproduced, but banning all meat will reduce the land we can farm.

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Maths?

If there are about 25 million households, 4 million tons of food a year is only about 136 Kilos or 300 pounds per household.

Over a year, about 6 lbs a week of waste food, per household.

Considering we have a very efficient food supply chain, caterers have huge wastage, also people are eating less food than 30 years ago through inactivity. How will any measures be able to improve on this household figure.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Supermarkets (Mark)

Couldn't agree with you more Mark (okay, okay, I checked with my missus) - supermarket veggies _do_ last less time than greengrocer or farmers market ones! Even the ones that historically folks used to store for use over the winter.

Meanwhile in La-La Land - does the PM actually listen to the public? (rhetorical question). Heck, you see all these adverts proudly claiming a product to be "GM free", would they do this if Joe and Josephine Public actually _wanted_ GM food?

In which case, why the 'eck is the idiot trying the "GM is the answer to all your questions" claptrap again. GM? sorry, you can keep it GB! If the Gordonment wants to help the public to waste less food, then a couple of adverts, the odd leaflet, a web site, a quango here or there would do fine. Oh, but I forget - just telling everyone "waste less food" is _much_ cheaper! (a-hole!)

Paris icon - because she'd maybe cause less havoc as PM, and would certainly be respected more...

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Farsighted?

As Jilted John said/sang way back in 1978:

"Gordon is a moron!"

Couldn't have put it better myself.

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Boffin

Too much food.

I've been saying for months that restaurants at least give us too much food by at least a third. Plates are definitely bigger nowadays, and when I get takeaway, I can usually only manage about half what they give me. Everyone I ask agrees with me, and I always see half eaten meals when out at restaurants. When I had a meal in the US at TGI fridays, I was astounded with what they expected me to eat, I thought it would easily fill 3 people. So that far I at least believe to be partly true. Having dinner last night I had a portion more in line with what I reasonably expect to eat and believe it or not I ate it all, and didn't feel hungry afterwards. If restaurants provided half the food, we'd pay half the price (well I can dream), end up with less waste, or less waist, and double the capacity.

I do agree with pretty much everything everyone says here too, the UK could probably feed most if not all its population locally if they'd stop screwing the farmers into the ground, and got more local market buying. Over in Oz, they have Farmers markets, which are just like supermarkets, only 'run' by local farmers and all the produce is grown locally. The government should start getting a clue.

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@Ashley Stevens

"The government pays farmers to not grow crops - they call this set-aside. Now they say we must all buy less food because there's a shortage. But they are the ones paying farmers not to grow it!? I say it's time for set-aside - set-aside the government that is."

Your wish is my command:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4282134.ece

For the devoid of clickability, the story is about how the smack, sorry, poppy fields of Norfolk are under threat because the EU wants to abandon set aside [where the poppys grow] to bump up food production.

At last, Europe doing something useful. Provided that should they end up with food mountains again, they do something useful with it, such as paying farmers a reasonable rate for it and include it as part of aid packages to third world countries.

Certainly be more altruistic manner of dealing with it than calling it 'biofuel' and wanging it in an incinerator - we should really have better power generation methods than that by now [nuke, for example].

Steven R

PS: Set aside is good for goofing about in cars though...

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Coat

@Mark re: Re: Actually...

You missed the point, the comment was not about wheat and soya in specific. It is about "grain" in general used as animal feed to produce meat.

It takes approximately 3Kg grain to produce 1Kg meat (your mileage will vary!!

Vegetarianism is the way to go.

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@Can anyone spot the missing link ...

Jimbo,

I think you may be under the pleasent illusion that this mess we call labour governance is just incompetance and bad luck.

What has happened here is that a problem is being used to push through GM, not to solve the problem but to get GM through. The PM knows the problem cannot be solved by GM, but he needs a reason to promote GM and to look like he is doing something. There is a lot of GM food that we can't bring into Europe, allow GM and then we can have GM soya. Everyone here has better suggestions except perhaps for the people who want a drastic population reduction. Those people seem to me to be on the PM's side.

There is a food crisis brewing. Food now costs more, the weather has caused a lot of problems.

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Food and other Waste

Broon needs to take the beam out of his own eye.

The Govt. wastes so much on madcap schemes (ID cards anyone? Anyone?) that if they wasted (and taxed) less we could all eat steak and drink Champagne for breakfast.

And the EU can lecture me on climate change when it dispenses with the idiocity of flying the entire parliament staff between 2 venues all the time.

Joined-up government? Never heard of it.

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Joke

Eat Recycled Food...

...it's good for the environment and it's okay for you.

reference - Judge Dredd (the movie).

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