President's Blog - 23 August

Following the decision from Europe that gene editing is to be treated as a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), President Andrew McCornick believes that some decision makers could do with a science lesson.

GMO is where genetic material from one organism is added to another organism (plant or animal). Gene Editing is where you are working with the Genetic material in one plant or one animal and editing it for beneficial outcomes.

By allowing agriculture to use this technology we can make dramatic changes to the productive and environmental impact of food production. This is precision breeding a thing that the plant and animal sectors have been doing for decades. A.I. is an early example of this and the breeding trials on plants.

The world population is growing whilst resources are diminishing. Add to that the climate change and environment targets the Paris agreement is wanting and you are in a dilemma.

Gene editing can help to deliver in many ways.

There is the ability to for example select for disease reduction or even possibly resistance. This could then result in less secondary infections and less antibiotic usage. There is welfare and production benefits that the public are looking for, alongside environmental benefits from a shorter healthier production period. Possible to select for better Food Conversion Rates alongside this as well. This would give economic benefit for the producer and the economy.

Exactly the same type of selection in the plant world, say wheat where you could possibly select for fungal resistance or tolerance. This would mean less Crop Protection Products are needed reducing cost of production and delivering less chemicals into the environment.

There is scope to select for Climate Change adaptability or geographic challenge, imagine being able to produce our own Soya in Scotland.

Adding all these possibilities up will deliver for everyone, food, climate change and environmental wins.

Undoubtedly behind it all we need robust science and public buy-in. I would contend that the science is there, and Scotland will be at the forefront of this with our research institutions.

The biggest challenge is the public, there is a lot of work to do here getting them to understand that this powerful technology is safe and can deliver quality food with welfare, and environmental benefits.

We the producers, the scientists and the decision makers need to get this message across, rather than submitting to the court of public opinion at the politician end keeping us in the stone age.

Look at the advances we have made in the last 50 years using the developing technology to provide the food we need, or should we have stuck with a horse on the plough? 

Author: Andrew McCornick

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Charlie Adam

2069 days ago

Well said!
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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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