EU Fight Looms Over Move to Ease Modified Crop Curbs

Europe is poised for a fresh battle over genetically modified crops as its top regulator moves to relax a zero tolerance policy on unauthorised GM imports.

Androulla Vassiliou, health commissioner, is set to recommend lifting the threshold for GM "contamination" in response to pressure from farmers and the food industry, which claim they are spending millions of pounds finding alternatives.

Environmental campaigners, however, say warnings that the EU could be unable to find supplies are scaremongering. Diplomatic sources in Brazil and Argentina, which supply almost all the EU's animal feed supplies and soya for processed food, also question the apocalyptic scenario.

"We produce to satisfy our clients. We are not going to produce something they are not going to buy," said a Brazilian source.

Ms Vassiliou is likely to propose lifting the threshold from zero to 0.1 per cent. That would cover most of the recent contamination cases, such as the LL601 incident in 2006 when genetically modified rice came into the EU from the US and had to be withdrawn from the market, costing companies involved millions of euros.

The change would not require new legislation and the subsequent support of a qualified majority of EU ministers and the European parliament. Ms Vassiliou's spokeswoman said that experts from member states, however, would have to agree the policy change.

"We are looking at a technical solution that would not require changing the law," the spokeswoman said. It is the least radical option called for. The food industry had pushed for 0.9 per cent, in line with the amount of GM allowed in foodstuffs without having to be labelled. The US wants 5 per cent.

EU citizens and their governments are broadly hostile to GM. It can take up to four years to approve a new product even for animal feed imports, the most uncontroversial area. In the US, by contrast, the process takes a few months so there are many more approved crops.

With the EU dependent on imports for 77 per cent of its animal feed, farmers are left paying about 10 per cent more for supplies than rivals, and trade is occasionally disrupted when an unauthorised genetically modified organism is found.

Friends of the Earth, the environmental pressure group, has condemned the commissioner's plan.

"If the EU was serious about listening to its citizens it would not be quietly weakening GMO laws behind closed doors," said Helen Holder, European GM campaigner at the organisation.

"The EU is falling for the biotech industry's pro-GM hype. European livestock farmers need real solutions not measures that will simply increase the industry's control and profits."

The EU has approved about 20 GM substances for imports. Brazilian and Argentine sources say the change would be aimed more at cutting costs than ensuring supply.

By Andrew Bounds in Brussels
Published: June 25 2008 03:00

Sponsored by
Platinum Sponsor: IMCOPA Platinum Sponsor: CERT ID Gold Sponsor: Grupo Andre Maggi Gold Sponsor: Caramuru
Silver Sponsor: SOL Team Silver Sponsor: Alro Soya Silver Sponsor: Belagricola Patron Friend: Sonic Biochem

Supported by
Supporter: EU Committee of the Regions Supporter: ABRANGE Supporter: Etica de Terra Supporter: Soil Association
Supporter: Soya Tech Supporter: GM-free Ireland Supporter: Organic & Non-GMO Report Support the Summit!

Produced by
Logistics by
Powered by
Apak Communications Avantel Drupal