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)

AgroBiotechRom (Romania)

Conservation Agriculture Association (APOSOLO, Portugal)

Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores (ASAJA, Spain), ASOPROVAC (Spain)

FuturAgra (Italy)

InnoPlanta (Germany)

Ligii Asociatiilor Producatorilor Agricoli din Romania (LAPAR, Romania)

The UK Farming Unions NFU, UFU, NFUS and NFU Cymru

Readers' comments (7)

  • These farming organisations who favour GM crops, before even they have been shown to be safe, should pay some attention to the report by Olivier de Schutter on the subject of agroecology. Massive monocrop farming, for which GM crops are designed, are not the answer - are in fact the antithesis of a solution to farming's problems.

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  • "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’.
    " - Nope. The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) have recently released a statement confirming that in actuality that there is no scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops are safe, let alone "as safe as" conventionally developed crop varieties.

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  • A totally disingenuous and misleading report if ever there was one. This is pure propaganda to drum up support for an unproven technology. So far GM crops have never proven to be as productive as 'conventional crops'. Please note the emphasis here because there is nothing conventional about slapping mega loads of chemicals onto the land just to make some hybrid plant grow. Then there is this little issue of sustainablility. Again the use of mega loads of chemicals is needed to make the GM crops grow. That is why they are modified. To allow the use of the highly toxic Roundup glyphosate based weedkiller which is now being discovered to be highly toxic to humans despite the disinformation of members of the UK parliaments recent statements. Yes there have been claims made in the house and they too are deeply flawed, untruthful, disingenuous and above all 'unscientific'.
    Twenty years of an entire nation eating GM food does not constitute a robust and/or meaningful piece of scientific research. So when the people in power say that its safe because the US people have eaten it fr 20 years ask them for the control group data that supports this statement they are making and then watch as they cough, splutter or run for the hills. Its never been proven safe. So don't be taken in by e lies. The agenda is simply to enable corporations to take over the entire food production system and hold the people to ransom for a profit. Their corporate mantra is simple.
    'You'll either eat what we sell you at the price we sell it or starve. Your choice.'
    Now tell me GM technology is safe when 70% of all ordinary seeds are owned by Monsanto in the EU already and no one has even tried to stop them buying them all up. When they own the lot they will simply withdraw all ordinary seeds off the market leaving only GM. Either grow GM or starve. They don't care as long as they control the market inperpituity.
    No to GM means 'No!'

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  • To the anonymous at 8:03am:
    Yes there is scientific consensus on the safety of GM foods currently in the market, they are way more studied then the organic and conventional foods.
    I should ask for studies on the safety of conventional and organic foods obtained by mutagenic methods where they induce random and several mutations on seeds by exposing them to chemicals or radiation, but I afraid you wouldn't find those studies!

    The few 90 fringe scientists who signed the letter saying there isn't consensus are most of them the authors of most anti-GM studies with bad design, bad statistical manipulation, and widely contested/rejected conclusions. Names like Seralini and Vandana Shiva, two well known big liers on the anti-GM activism sign that joke. It resembles similar moves of the climate change deniers.

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  • It is a hypocrisy that EU imports Soy Products and Cattle feed from USA, which are made from GM Soy bean & GM Maize. Don't these GM Crop end products enter their food chain? By denying access to GM Crop cultivation EU is doing great injustice to their own farming community.

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  • Can someone tell me why in the hell I have no right to have food labels for GMO? What kind of bullying is that? What kind of arrogance is that?

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  • farm publications make huge revenue from Monsanto advertising
    make almost nothing from organic or conventional
    consumers need to be given the choice
    by proper labelling

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