Science News

UK royals' sibling rivalry? Princess Anne says GMO crops have benefits

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Princess Anne may have sparked some royal sibling rivalry after saying genetically modified crops had real benefits to offer, putting her at odds with her older brother Charles who says they would be an environmental disaster.

Britain Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse - 16/3/17 Britain's Princess Anne during the Cheltenham Festival Action Images via Reuters / Matthew Childs Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. - RTX31C5P

In an interview with BBC radio, Anne said she would grow GMO crops on her farming estates, adding she doubted that the technology had many downsides.

That view contrasts sharply with that of heir-to-the-throne Charles, who has long been an ardent campaigner for organic produce, once warning the widespread use of GM crops would “cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time”.

“GM is one of those things that divides people,” Anne, whose title is the Princess Royal, told the BBC’s “Farming Today” program.

“Surely if we are going to be better at producing food of the right value, then we have to accept that genetic technology ... is going to be part of that,” she said in the interview to be aired on Thursday.

European Union laws strictly control the use and authorization to grow GM organisms, but last October environment minister George Eustice said the British government was considering “possible future arrangements” for the regulation of GM organisms after Britain leaves the bloc.

Asked if she would use GM for crops and livestock on her own farming lands in Gloucestershire, western England, should the law allow, the 66-year-old daughter of Queen Elizabeth replied “Yes”.

“To say we mustn’t go there ‘just in case’ is probably not a practical argument,” she said. “I do think ... gene technology has got real benefits to offer, which will have maybe an occasional downside, but I suspect not very many.”

Anne’s attitude toward GM crops has long differed from that of Charles, patron of the Soil Association which campaigns against the use of GM produce.

In a newspaper interview in 2008 Charles said multinational food companies were conducting a “gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong”.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison