There is an onus on European society to examine how biotechnology can be used to reduce substantially the significant crop yield loss that growers are experiencing, while also addressing environmental concerns.

This is according to Irish Farmers Association (IFA) national potato chairman Thomas Carpenter, who was speaking at yesterday’s Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘GMO Technology Conference’ held in Dublin Castle.

“Crop yields for major Irish crops such as potatoes and wheat have plateaued over the past 20 years,” he said. “Up to 30 per cent of crop yield potential is not being achieved due to pests, diseases, climate and environmental factors and so on.”

“Given the burgeoning global demand for food and increasing environmental constraints, coupled with the diminishing armoury of pesticides available to protect crops, the onus is on society to develop and adopt biotech solutions that can deliver environmental benefits and greater resource use efficiencies.”

Carpenter added while GM use has gained widespread acceptance in the medical, industrial and agricultural spheres, European consumers for the most part remain negative, particularly when it comes to food.

EU farmers are currently caught in a bind as they have to compete commercially against imported GM produce while prohibited from growing the same crops.

“Lack of political leadership, along with inconsistent EU policies has further alienated European consumers. Robust independent research coupled with a properly designed education programme is needed to help consumers to understand the benefits that biotechnology can deliver.”

Related: EU expert notes scepticism of GM food technology