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EU Misses Out on GM Livestock Feed Opportunity

21 February 2012, at 11:45am

ANALYSIS - Are European views on genetically modified (GM) crops putting EU farmers at a competitive disadvantage, asks editor, Charlotte Johnston.

With unpredictable, extreme weather conditions and competition on global markets, it is likely that farmers will continue to struggle to source feed for livestock production at a competitive price.

In this context, there are some sections of the industry that believe the introduction of GM crops could significantly help.

With the EU dependent on 80 per cent of vegetable proteins imported, it was recently agreed that new EU rules will allow a low–level presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in feed to facilitate imports into the EU.

Copa Cogeca, the EU farming group, says that without this, feed prices would have continued to rise, pushing the EU livestock sector into a crisis.

Despite this small step, resistance against GM technology in the EU from consumers, farmers and politicians continues.

German chemical company, BASF, has said that this resistance has forced it to pull out of GM crop trials in Europe.

The company has said that it will continue its activities in the GM–friendlier markets of North and South America.

In January, France announced its intention to uphold a ban on the cultivation of GM approved Monsanto maize. Five other EU countries, Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxemburg and Hungary also ban its cultivation.

Anti-GM campaigners welcomed this news.

GM Freeze Campaign Director, Pete Riley, said: “In addition to health and environmental concerns, other basic problems remain unresolved, such as how to prevent the contamination of crops through pollen movement or human error, maintaining GM-free agricultural seeds and, critically, who is liable when things go wrong."

No risk to GM feed in livestock production

Various studies conducted in the US have confirmed that there is no health risk associated with feeding livestock GM feed. A study in 2011 looked at the long term impacts of GM diets in livestock, and found no associated health risks.

EU lags behind other countries on GM approvals

A report by the European Association for Bio-Industries (EuropaBio) suggests that EU legislation is prohibiting the development of GM crops.

There are currently two GM crops – one type of maize and one potato for industrial use – approved for cultivation in Europe, whilst there are 90 in the US and 28 in Brazil.

A total of 37 GM products have been approved for import into the EU (seven cotton, 23 maize, three oilseed rape, three soybean and one sugar beet).

Many GM products are stuck in administration, with 72 products currently awaiting approval.

The report states that it takes 15 to 20 months longer to approve GM crops in the EU than in US, Canada and Brazil.