In early January of this year, GFN member Paul Temple spoke at The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) the prestigious event held annually at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. You may recall this is the same event that Mark Lynas publicly apologized in 2013for his earlier anti-GMO activism.
“For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”
Lynas spoke again this year (the 2018 speech available here, and the 2013 speech available here) and adds immeasurable value to the discussion on agricultural biotechnology. He also has a new book “Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on GMOs” from his perspetive of having completely reversed his original opposition to biotech crops.
Temple, as a farmer with firsthand expertise expounds on that discussion – quite literally from the ground up. Paul is a tenant farmer in a family partnership operating a bit over 300 hectares (roughly about 750 acres) raising beef cattle, cereals, oilseeds and vining peas in East Yorkshire. The operation took part in the GM Field Scale Evaluation trials in the UK and is part of the Higher-Level Stewardship scheme. Paul has been involved with an impressive list of groups; he is a formerNational Farmers’ Union (NFU)vice-president and former chairman of COPA/COGECAcereals, oilseeds and proteins group in Brussels. He was a founder of the European Biotech Forum. He was an AHDBCereals & Oilseeds sector board member from 2013 to 2015 and past board member of the National Non-Food Crops Centre. He is now a main AHDB board member, chairs the UK Cereals and Oilseeds sector and has recently taken up the chairmanship of The Voluntary Initiativethat works to “promote the responsible use of agricultural and horticultural pesticides”. Temple has traveled extensively learning about international agriculture and was an invited speaker on “Brexit – UK Farming Steps Out Into the World” at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s 93rd Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in 2017.
But back to this year’s Oxford Farming Conference… Temple took part on the panel looking at the debate on ‘The Birds & The Bees’ and “covering policy and what the practicalities of greening and biodiversity might be over the coming years.” Below is a short, approximately 8 minute video of his remarks and reaction to the discussion.
“My final observation on food and the people and the media and the way it’s portrayed. I took part in the field scale evaluation trials for GM crops many years ago. I learned as much about the media and the challenges they have to produce a story that has drama and two polar opposites. In a way the education side gets lost in that drama. And I took part in a debate in the field that we had with myself and a scientist and an enthusiastic local organic producer and a Greenpeace activist. And we had a debate about some food on the table that was benefitting from GM soya. We had that usual debate where this food was going to kill us and destroy the environment and we would say let’s just look at the science. The cameras started coming down and then the organic producer and the Greenpeace activist started eating the food. And I asked them why. And they said one simple thing. Because we are hungry. And that is the challenge we face. We manage the environment and we accept that responsibility, but if we don’t get the feeding bit right, we can’t do the environment.”