EU lifts ban on GM feed
BRITISH farmers could soon be given access to GM animal feed after the EU voted to relax its zero-tolerance policy to contaminated feed being imported into Europe.
It marks a step-change in the EU’s approach to GM, and comes following warnings of feed shortages and inflated prices, with importers increasingly wary of shipments being turned away from ports in the EU.
Europe currently imports around 80 per cent of its animal feed, much of it from GM growing countries in North and South America.
At a meeting this week, the EU’s Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) agreed to allow up to 0.1 per cent of non-EU approved GM in feed imports.
Welcoming the decision, Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said: “It should help lower the costs of imported soya for hard pressed livestock farmers who are being hit by sharply rising feed costs.
“Farmers in the UK import approximately 2.2 million tonnes of soya every year and it is estimated by the industry that the zero tolerance threshold on imports was costing farmers an extra £50 per tonne which they can ill afford at this time.
“These changes should help put UK and Scottish farmers in a more competitive position and reduce costs once the benefits feed through.”
The NFU said the move was ‘a step in the right direction’ but warned more needed to be done to make it easier for importers.
NFU director of policy Martin Haworth said: “The change only applies to the presence of material for which EU import licences have been applied, but not yet approved.
“Increasingly companies are simply not bothering to apply for licences in the EU - particularly for maize - since the process is long and costly and the major markets are in Asia not Europe.”
Mr Haworth also highlighted a clause which means imported GM will still have to be given the green light by the European Food Safety Authority, risking more delays and potentially preventing farmers taking full advantage of the change in the rules.
The proposed change came in for heavy criticism from the anti-GM lobby this week, which warned it was the start of a slippery slope opening Europe’s doors to GM.
Pete Riley of campaign group GM Freeze said: “EU member states have failed to respect the wishes of their citizens- the majority of whom remain opposed to GM crops entering the food chain.
“Instead they have been swayed by the hyperbole of industry into weakening the GMO regulations.”
The new rules will now be placed before the European Council and the Parliament and are likely to come into force in three months time if they both approve the plans.