East Anglian farmers risk being left behind, conference hears today

MEP George Lyon, who will be speaking at the 2013 Norfolk Farming Conference

MEP George Lyon, who will be speaking at the 2013 Norfolk Farming Conference - Credit: Submitted

East Anglian farmers risk being left behind in the global race to maximise food production and feed a burgeoning population.

That is one of the key messages emerging from today's Norfolk Farming Conference, being held at the John Innes Centre in Colney.

Almost 400 delegates heard from a line-up of international experts, covering topics ranging from EU policy reforms, energy crops and climate change.

They also heard how precision farming techniques and the use of genetically-modified (GM) crops - still prevented from being grown in the UK - have rapidly increased yields and profitability in places like the USA and Argentina.

Keynote speaker, Scottish MEP George Lyon, described a 'perfect storm' created by a predicted doubling of food demand by 2050, exacerbated by constraints on land and water availability.

Mr Lyon has been closely involved in the negotiations over reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

He said the European Commission needed to recognise the importance of new technologies and efficiencies in meeting future food demand.

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He said: 'On the big issue of sustainable intensification, the commission has been silent. Their absolute focus is on biodiversity.

'Biotech is the great unmentionable, yet the rest of the world is powering on.'

Adam Quinney, Vice President of the National Farmers Union, added: 'There is still a general lack of acceptance on this technology across the EU, which continues to present a barrier to progress.'

For more coverage of the Norfolk Farming Conference, see tomorrow's papers.