EU farming groups express concerns about GM regulations

The restrictions on growing GM crops in the European Union are greater than anywhere else in the world

Protesters descended on a farm in Oxfordshire and ripped up GM oilseed rape
Protesters descended on a farm in Oxfordshire and ripped up GM oilseed rape

The restrictions on growing GM crops in the European Union are greater than anywhere else in the world.

Efforts to change them provoke controversy and, because the steps necessary to effect change depend in part on politicians taking a view about public opinion, the restrictions remain in place.

In an effort to free the log jam, EU farming groups, including the NFU, NFU Cymru NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, have added their names to an open letter written by the French Association for Plant Biotechnology to the Commission expressing deep concern about the effect of GM policies and regulations in the EU.

It calls for better access to the best crops including GM varieties ‘so that agriculture in Europe can be more sustainable and less reliant on imported products’, and says that the lack of options can lead to loss of income and missed opportunity for EU farmers.

At present there are only two varieties of GM crop licensed to be grown in the EU, and in six member states - Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg - even those may not be grown.

They have invoked a safeguard clause in a 2001 Directive which allows member states to prohibit the use or sale of genetically modified organisms if they have justifiable reasons for considering that the organisms pose a risk to human health or to the environment.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council has recently published a report which warns of grave scientific, economic and social consequences of current EU policy and calls for a ‘rethink’ of the widespread rejection of GM technology.

It looks for a reform of EU regulations which focus on risk benefit analysis rather than on risk alone.

The report has received backing from the national science academies of all the member states and Norway and Switzerland, and from the EU’s chief scientific adviser, Anne Glover.

She also says that the EU should not miss the opportunities offered by emerging plant breeding technologies and should not ‘make the mistake of regulating them to death as we have done with GM’.

The anti-GM lobby has been active too. After the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of Syngenta and Monsanto (which has abandoned GM work in the EU), the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility issued a statement challenging claims from the UK government and biotechnology companies that GM foods are safe.

This in turn has provoked a firm rejoinder from the chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council in Australia who referred to a report from the World Health Organisation which says of GM foods that no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.

The anti-lobby will no doubt reply that the World Health Organisation says nothing about the effect on the environment.

QED - The scientists will never achieve a sufficient consensus to stiffen the political sinews.

 
comments powered by Disqus

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer