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The Society of Biology’s response to the question of whether organic farming and GM crops can co-exist has been published in the Guardian.

Following a recent case where an Australian farmer was cleared by the courts after seeds from his genetically modified canola was found on a neighbour’s organic farm, the Guardian ran a live online discussion.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, stressed the need for clear protocols and regulation surrounding the growth of genetically modified crops. He said:

“It is important to ensure GM and non-GM crop varieties can co-exist, and this is a vital area for research and policy development. The farming practices required to minimise cross fertilisation or seeding, such as the separation distance between crops, will depend on a number of factors including accepted contamination thresholds.

“It is extremely important to satisfy consumer and democratic choice in setting the acceptable levels of contamination. However, extremely tight thresholds across all crops could reduce potential opportunities to benefit from genetically modified crops.

“As the Marsh case highlights, clear protocols and legislation addressing economic and environmental liability are needed. However, it would be a mistake for regulation to be excessively punitive, as this would inhibit the development of environmentally and economically beneficial GM crops and practices.”