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Help Sought on EU GM Zero Tolerance Policy

by 5m Editor
22 July 2009, at 10:27am

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish and UK Governments seeking their assistance in addressing the damage being done to its livestock sector by Europe’s zero tolerance policy for as yet unapproved genetically modified (GM) crops being found in imported animal feed.

Even when very low levels of non-approved GM material is found in shipments of animal feed to the EU, the zero tolerance approach results in these important shipments being rejected. With huge tonnages involved, this has caused distortion in the markets for soya and maize, reduced supplies and driven feed price hikes that threaten our livestock farmers’ viability.

NFUS recently wrote to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, seeking his support for more acceptable GM tolerance levels. This week, NFU Scotland along with the Ulster Farmers’ Union, National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, and the National Pig Association wrote to Defra ministers on the same subject.

NFU Scotland Vice-President, Allan Bowie said, "A practical solution to the issue of low level GM presence in feed imported into the EU must be found if livestock producers are to be spared from seeing their tightening margins eroded by animal feed costs that have been inflated by dithering in Europe.

"Demanding zero tolerance levels of non-approved GM crops in imported animal feed is unjustifiable on scientific and food safety grounds and is symptomatic of Europe’s muddied approach to the whole GM debate. Although tolerance levels have been on the European agenda for several years, we need our representatives to break the political deadlock, move this forward, and stop the unscientific policy-making that characterises GM regulation in Europe."

Mr Bowie said that many of Scotland's livestock producers – whether cattle, sheep, pigs or poultry – are limited by climate and geography in the types of protein feeds that they can grow at home. They are reliant on imported feed to ensure their stock receives the proper nutrition and at a cost that hopefully allows them to make a profit on their meat, milk and eggs.

"Having hugely important shipments of animal feed rejected at European ports because of trace levels of non-EU approved GM varieties is heavy handed and placing a huge financial burden on those who need to buy such feed supplies for their animals. Latest estimates are that the UK livestock industry could face additional feed costs upwards of £30m for soya rations alone because of shipments being turned away at EU ports," Mr Bowie said.

"The European Commission must be made to realise that reduced livestock production in the EU, brought about by inflated feed costs, will see our demand for livestock products increasingly met by animals from third countries that are fed the very same feed our farmers are not allowed to use. As the acreage of GM crops increases in major exporting countries, and new varieties are planted, the likelihood of this occurring will increase as will the cost to producers," continued Mr Bowie.

Mr Bowie said the whole supply chain has been urging recognition and action on the EU GM approvals process and tolerance levels in imported feed for several years, with little progress. "We need our politicians’ support in making sure that progress is made as a matter of urgency," concluded Mr Bowie.