Europe needs to adopt a fresh approach to farming, food safety and product innovation, according to Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald. Speaking at the second City Food Lecture sponsored by Sainsbury, FitzGerald said: "We must embrace change not fear it. That will require courage from our politicians and better engagement with consumers." And GMOs were top of Fitzgerald's agenda. "There have been many understandable questions about the affects of GM crops on the environment and on people's health," he said. "I welcome these because they are the foundation of a good debate." But he added: "There have also been numerous instances of alarmist and hysterical reporting, law-breaking and pseudo-science. "It seems sometimes that Europe has taken a step backwards into a time when the scientific discoveries of Galileo could be regarded as incorrect on the basis of dogma alone." However, FitzGerald said he was confident that the deep public suspicion in Europe about GMOs could be overcome ­ "if we remember the importance of working with consumers and speaking their language". He also urged Europe's politicians to do more to raise the debate about GMOs. "I know this is not a task that politicians will relish," he added, "but if science, consumer requirements and the requirement to have a competitive European food sector are all pointing in the same direction, then our leaders should take heed." In a wide-ranging speech, FitzGerald also backed a "third way" for farming ­ sustainable agriculture ­ which he said offered a viable option for those looking for alternatives to intensive production and organic methodology. He also warned that Europe's regulators needed to be more open to new ideas ­ particularly in the area of unctional foods. And he said the precautionary principle must not be applied in a way that "choked off" innovation. "We have become so hung up on GM that other innovations such as functional foods ­ foods that are enhanced to confer additional health benefits ­ are being caught in the same net." But the Unilever chairman reserved some of his strongest criticism for Europe's "disastrous" Common Agricultural Policy. He said Europe must get to grips with reform. "As part of that reform, the mid-term review of CAP this year must answer the question: is the present regime sustainable? Agricultural production which is not sustainable from the environmental point of view should not, in principle, be supported." l see page 50 {{NEWS }}