The UK government is set to allow farmers to sell their crop fodder to the public as part of a move to tackle the obesity epidemic.
The Food Standards Agency will start requiring the use of the UK’s biggest crop, beet, to be treated with a chemical called biopesticide, to tackle obesity.
A report by the UK government last month warned that one third of the population could be considered obese by 2050 and that this is an urgent problem.
The biopester, which is used to treat crop residues for other crops, has already been used on crops including lettuce, tomatoes, and apples.
It has been used for over 100 years to treat cattle for diseases like rickets and lassos, and was first used in the UK in the 1930s.
The government will now seek public feedback on the use, which it says is the most cost-effective way to tackle an epidemic of obesity.
It will then decide whether it will allow the bioprevalence of the beet in the country and will set up a national database to keep track of how much the biopsesticide is being used.
“Biopesticides are already widely used for crops and have been in use for centuries for other purposes.
But as with many pesticides, the use in the food supply is likely to be higher than it would otherwise be,” the government said in a statement.
The move follows calls from UK farmers for a ban on the chemical and a similar move is expected from the European Union.
“It is not just about reducing the amount of the pesticide, it is also about reducing its availability and its toxicity, particularly for humans, who will be exposed to high levels of pesticide in their food,” said Tom Wood, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.
While some campaigners welcomed the move, others were critical.
“I don’t think it’s the most effective way to deal with obesity, I think it is just the latest in a series of attempts to regulate food and the way it is produced,” said Richard Lloyd, who has been campaigning for a blanket ban on food and biopropies for over 20 years.
Many experts said there were a range of other potential uses for bioprops in the agricultural sector, including for reducing soil erosion.
“We’re seeing the introduction of crops that have been grown without using biopoies,” said David Greenfield, professor of environmental and biological sciences at the University of Essex.
“The way it’s been done in the past is that the farmer has used a plant that was treated with bioproductive chemicals, and then they use it in a crop.”
A Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the government had “agreed with the advice” of the industry to include bioproteomics in the new regulations.
“The Government’s focus is on the prevention and treatment of obesity in children, and it is our aim to get all our food produced to a level of quality where children can enjoy healthy eating,” they said.
Read more from The Huffington Posts: FDA to review how to use genetically engineered foods: What’s the science?
Why does the food industry hate us?
The future of food: Food giants want to be a ‘big brother’ Food and farming have been linked to the obesity crisis, with research showing that the consumption of processed foods and sugar is linked to weight gain.
But the government has previously been accused of using the biotechnology to regulate the use and availability of the chemical.
In a 2012 report published by the Science Advisory Council, it was argued that the use “may be inconsistent with the objectives of the Food Standards Act”.
“The current regulatory framework for biotechnology has a clear impact on the availability and quantity of bioprotein compounds for use in food production and the food-processing industry,” the report said.
“In particular, the regulatory framework should ensure that bioprogressive chemicals are available for use for specific purposes, for example to reduce the presence of certain pests, to prevent contamination of foodstuffs or to improve the health of consumers.”
A clear understanding of the impacts of the biopharmaceutical and biotransformation industry is needed.”
The government’s report also said biopraxy is being introduced in areas where it is “impossible” to use bioprene for crops, such as the UK, Canada and France.