EU farming organisations demand greater access to GM crops
A NUMBER of EU farming organisations have joined forces to demand changes to EU rules to make it easier for GM crops to be developed and grown in Europe.
The organisations representing farmers in the four countries of the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Romania have written an open letter to the European Commission expressing ‘deep concern’ about the effects of EU GM policies and regulations on ‘the potential of modern biotechnology to strengthen the sustainable production of food’.
The letter states: “If the EU wants to make its farming more sustainable and be less dependent on import of agricultural products, then EU farmers will need to have access to crop varieties that are less dependent on pesticides, that produce more per hectare, that require less mechanical soil treatment, that can withstand the effects of climate change, etc.
“Developing such crop varieties cannot be done by conventional breeding alone. Modern biotechnology can help considerably in reaching these goals, and in some cases it is the only solution available.”
The letter adds that ‘extensive research’ has shown GM crops cultivated today are ‘as safe as – and sometimes safer – for human health and the environment than their non modified counterparts’.
“However, rather than fine tuning the regulations on the basis of this evidence, the EU moves in the opposite direction, by continuously intensifying the regulatory requirements,” it says.
The organisations, which include the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Wales and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, say the regulatory system has become ‘an insurmountable hurdle for public and private sector development of GM crops, with no scientific justification’.
They claim a number of member states have used loopholes in the regulations to ban GM crops ‘without valid scientific justification’.
The letter calls on EU institutions and member states to take a ‘broader, more holistic, and longer term view on agricultural production of food, feed and biomass, and to adjust the GMO policies and regulations accordingly’. This includes ensuring ‘sound scientific evidence’ is used for decision making, making decisions in ‘a timely manner’ and ensuring all member states adhere to the rules.
The organisations insist GM crops have been an established part of the global supply chain for food, feed and fibre for over 15 years, and have delivered clear benefits to farmers, environment, economy and wider society.
They claim denying EU, farmers access to GM crop varieties available elsewhere in the world is resulting in a ‘significant loss of income for farmers and significant missed opportunities to, for example, reduce the use of pesticides’.
The letter also highlights the ‘continued brain drain of public sector scientists and slowing down of public research’ in this area, meaning ‘an important root of innovation in the EU is constantly being cut back, and may die’.
Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: “The heads of EU institutions have a great deal of power to sort out this mess and ensure the EU doesn’t become uncompetitive in both agricultural production and scientific research. This letter demonstrates the strength of feeling in the agriculture sector across Europe. Swift action must be taken.”
Fighting for GM
The letter was written by Prof. Marc baron Van Montagu, World Food Prize Laureate 2013 and chairman of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), on behalf of:
Association Française des Biotechnologies Végétales (AFBV, France)
Conservation Agriculture Association (APOSOLO, Portugal)
Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores (ASAJA, Spain), ASOPROVAC (Spain)
Ligii Asociatiilor Producatorilor Agricoli din Romania (LAPAR, Romania)
The UK Farming Unions NFU, UFU, NFUS and NFU Cymru