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Europe must change policy on GM crops, warn experts

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By Nathan Gray+

30-Apr-2013
Last updated the 30-Apr-2013 at 15:23 GMT

Europe must change policy on GM crops, warn experts

The European Union will be unable to meet increased demands for food and crops in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way without its changing policy with regard to genetically modified crops, according to a group of European academics.

The researchers warn that Europe will not be able to meet its goals in agricultural policy without embracing genetically modified (GM) crops.

Writing in Trends in Plant Science, the group of Spanish and British suggest that the EU is undermining its own competitiveness in the agricultural sector to its own detriment and that of its humanitarian activities in the developing world.

"Many aspects of the EU agricultural policy, including those concerning GMOs, are internally inconsistent and actively obstruct what the policy sets out to achieve," said Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats in Spain.

"EU farmers are denied freedom of choice—in essence, they are prevented from competing because EU policies actively discriminate against those wishing to cultivate genetically engineered crops, yet exactly the same crops are approved for import," he said - adding that only a change in policy towards GMO production could help.

"We recommend the adoption of rational, science-based principles for the harmonisation of agricultural policies to prevent economic decline and lower standards of living across the continent," the authors suggest in their paper.

"Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress," warned Christou.

"Ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realising this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture." 

Conflicting policies

The authors said that the European Union currently has too many policies that directly conflict with others. For instance, they noted that the Lisbon Strategy aims to create a knowledge-based bio-economy - and recognizes the potential of GMOs to deliver it.

However EU policy on the cultivation of GMOs has created an environment that makes this impossible, they argued.

In reality, Christou and his colleagues said that there is a 'de facto' moratorium in Europe when it comes to the cultivation of genetically engineered crops like maize, cotton, and soybean - even though the same products are imported because there is insufficient capacity to produce them by conventional means at home.

The EU has also banned its farmers from using many pesticides and restricted them from other nonchemical methods of pest control, while allowing food products produced in the same ways to be imported, they team added.

All this, Christou suggested, despite the fact that GMOs must pass stringent safety tests and there has been no evidence of harm or health risks, despite more than 15 years of GMO agriculture around the world.

10 comments (Comments are now closed)

GMO has got to GO

Every monsanto/ gmo debarcle until this very day has shown that what they claimed were the benefits of gmo crops have turned out to be detrimental and disadvantageous on all fronts, from reducing poverty to environmental damage. Let's not even mention the health risks which no one has any idea about because we are still waiting for proof that spider genes in your lettuce is causing autism. It doesn't even produce more food!!

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Posted by john king
22 May 2013 | 18h37

Too Many Vested Interests

I am not convinced by impassioned statements from "experts" that have obvious vested interested in the future of what they are advocating. Nor am I convinced by industry funded research that looks at too short a time period, only one facet of a problem, and yet completely supports the continued avarice of its industry. Dispassionate objectivity is what science is about and it is what we should be responsive too. I don't trust businesses because I spent 40+ years there and know what motivates them.

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Posted by Jerry Parrick
08 May 2013 | 19h19

GMOs on the market are safe and bring benefits

All GM crops are tested prior to commercialisation to ensure that they are as safe as conventional crops, and have similar nutritional and compositional content. The World Health Organisation has said 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". In Europe, the European Commission funded research from 130 research project involving 500 independent research groups over 25 years, concluding that “There is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.” All these documents can be downloaded there: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-10-1688_en.htm.

As for what GM technology can offer: innovations in plant biotechnology have proven effective in improving farm yields per acre. Globally, biotech crops have led to an additional 276 million tons of food and fibre since being introduced in 1996. Without access to this technology, farmers would have had to plant 91 million more hectares to maintain yields (for reference, see http://bit.ly/YrbkHO), which is equivalent to the size of Poland, Germany and Romania combined. Increasing yields means avoiding the need to plough up land that is currently a haven for biodiversity. Using GM crops also help reduce the need for spraying, and produce food that containing fewer toxins such as mycotoxins.

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Posted by Nilsy Desaint
03 May 2013 | 10h27

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