Cultivation of GM crops rocketing in Europe

CULTIVATION of GM crops in Europe has rocketed in the last year, according to figures out this week.

Biotech crops now cover a total of 110,007 hectares of arable land on the continent – a rise of more than 77 per cent on last year.

The figures were released by EuropaBio, the biotech industry association, in advance of the Environment Council meeting to be held today (Tuesday, October 30) which will see EU member states discuss GM cultivation and import bans.

The figures show cultivation has almost quadrupled in France whilst Spain, the EU’s largest GM cultivator saw increases of around 40 per cent.

Johan Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General of EuropaBio said: “We are delighted to see that the uptake of biotech crops is growing despite the fact that only one product is available on the European market.

"The cultivation of biotech plants is legally possible in all EU countries and we strongly urge policy makers in Europe to give all farmers the right to choose the products which they think are best to protect their crops and increase their competitiveness."

The announcement comes just a week after French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced a moratorium on GM crops.

Speaking at Le Grenelle, a summit to discuss the future of French environmental policy, he announced the start of a ‘green revolution’ which would see France position itself at the forefront of the battle against climate change.

He said: “As a matter of precaution, I would like the commercial culture of GM pesticides to be suspended pending expert opinions.

“The truth is that we have doubts about the current use of GM pesticides, the truth is that we have doubts about the control of distribution, the truth is that we have doubts about the health and environmental benefits of GM crops.”

He also announced his intention to reduce pesticide use in France by half in a raft of proposals that will go before parliament in the next year.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore was at the summit and he called upon other world leaders to hold a “Grenelle Mondial” – a world summit on climate change and environment policy.

Mr Sarkozy said the summit marked the start of a greener France, with environmental issues at the heart of government policy.

He said: “It is a revolution in our ways of thinking, in our ways of deciding; a revolution in our behaviours, our policies and our objectives.”

France’s green revolution – the proposals:

• Pesticides: Cutting pesticide use by half within a decade.

• Genetically modified foods: Temporary freeze on planting of genetically modified crops.

• Organic food: All cafeterias in schools and public buildings will be required to offer organic food once a week

• Buildings: By 2020 all new buildings will produce as much energy as they consume.

• Transport: Strict limits on new road construction and a plan to lay 1,200 miles of new train tracks and 900 miles of tram tracks.

• Cars: Extra taxes on fuel-guzzling cars and discounts for greener vehicles.

• Lightbulbs: Ban on incandescent lightbulbs by 2010.

• Renewable energy: Make more than 20 per cent of France’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

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