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Call for More Imports of GM Feed Ingredients into EU

by 5m Editor
11 August 2009, at 11:01a.m.

UK - Ministers and farmers say that imports of genetically modified (GM) imports should be increased. To overcome the dilemma of dwindling global supplies on non-GM feed ingredients and the EU ban on growing GM varieties, the permitted maximum GM ingredient level in the EU may be raised.

More GM crops used to feed pigs, poultry and dairy cattle could be imported into Britain to meet the demand for animal feed, according to The Times.

Ministers are pressing the European Commission to speed up approval of GM crop varieties or risk a collapse in the market for home-produced chicken, eggs, pork and milk.

Farmers have warned that unless they can feed their pigs and poultry on GM soya and maize varieties being grown in North and South America – but which are currently unlicensed for use in Europe – they may be forced to leave the industry.

However, a shake-up in the licensing process could take years to achieve, so one option under discussion at the Commission is to allow farmers to use non-authorised GM crop varieties with a maximum threshold of GM level of 0.5 per cent or 0.9 per cent, as an interim measure.

The move could apply to 30 GM crop varieties that have passed the EU’s scientific tests on health and safety but which still await political approval for use within the EU.

The threat to British farming from the restrictions on GM crop varieties in the European Union was underlined in a consultation paper on the nation's future food security, published yesterday.

The Times report continues that the document also put forward a possible return to wartime rations and even a vegetarian diet in the event of new food shortages or international events that forced Britain to provide enough food to feed the nation.

Improvements to diet and efforts to reduce food waste that ends up in landfill sites and contributes to the country's carbon emissions are also discussed.

A move to persuade supermarkets to offer half-price goods instead of 'Buy one Get one Free' promotions is proposed to cut waste and to help to tackle the country's obesity crisis.

However, it is the potential collapse of Britain’s £6.8 billion a year livestock sector, which relies on imports of GM soya to feed animals, that makes for chilling reading.

Pigs and poultry, and to a lesser extent dairy cattle, need soya, GM and conventional crops to provide the necessary protein in their diet. The climate in Britain and most of the EU is not hot enough to grow soya.

Growers across the Atlantic are increasingly using new GM varieties, which have yet to receive formal clearance in Brussels, to boost yields.

Many have already dropped the EU as an export market and prefer instead to meet the demand for soya and maize in the burgeoning economies of China and India, where people are eating more meat and poultry.

Shipping companies that transport grain to the EU are also now increasingly wary of accepting grain cargos, fearing hefty costs if any crop is contaminated with a non-approved GM variety. This has led farming organisations to raise fears that the trade may be halted altogether.

In the EU, any product containing an unlicensed GM crop variety is illegal and must be removed from sale. Cargos are tested by EU officials at ports and any crop found with GM material must be destroyed or returned to the exporting country. Shippers have already raised transportation charges to cover the risks.

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, is urging Brussels to accept a speedier GM authorisation process but has not yet agreed a position on a GM threshold in unlicensed crop varieties.

Mr Benn said: "If GM can make a contribution then we have a choice as a society and as a world about whether to make use of that technology, and an increasing number of countries are growing GM products."

The issue is expected to be on the EU agenda in the autumn, concludes the article in The Times.