Owen Paterson says he wants a new debate on GM. A “more informed discussion”, no less, promoting a “balanced understanding” of GM’s risks and benefits.

This is a good thing to want. No matter if you’re pro or anti-GM (or undecided), it’s not difficult to agree the debate would benefit from rather less posturing on both sides.

“Calling GMOs ‘Frankenfoods’ is unhelpful. But so is invoking dying children”

Julia Glotz, fresh food editor

Which is why it’s baffling Paterson chose to include - in his Landmark speech at Rothamsted and during media appearances this week - references about children dying and going blind for lack of GM foods.

Paterson is right to say that calling GMOs “Frankenfoods” is unhelpful. But so is holding the public at emotional gunpoint by invoking dying children. And despite his calls for greater balance, Paterson’s own speech spent a lot of time extolling the benefits of GM but was noticeably light on the potential drawbacks.

If Paterson is serious about wanting a calmer, more informed debate on GM, he will need to practice what he preaches. Otherwise this new GM debate will quickly start looking just like the old one.