Germany calls for review of how EU approves new biotech crops (26/11/2007)

1.Germany calls for review of how EU approves new biotech crops
2.EU can feed livestock without new GMOs
3.EU given extra time to end GMO bans

EXTRACTS: Only three countries - Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland - have said the current system was rigorous enough to meet high public safety concerns.

[Germany's agriculture minister] said leaving such decisions to the EU executive was too risky. (item 1)

'The EU should not sacrifice its hard-won safety standards on the basis of illogical, scaremongering arguments from industry.' (item 2)


1.Germany calls for review of how EU approves new biotech crops
The Associated Press, November 26 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Germany's agriculture minister called on the European Union on Monday to suspend its approval procedure for new biotech crops and seeds, demanding governments undertake a wide-scale review of how genetically modified products can be used in Europe.

'This (system) should be stopped and we should check: can the procedures stay as they are,' Horst Seehofer said before EU farm ministers talks.

He said that the current system in place, which has already received criticism from several EU nations, is 'highly unsatisfactory.'

Germany has called for a debate on the 27-nation bloc's policy on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, at an EU leaders summit in December.

The bloc's biotech policy, meant to open its agricultural markets to more genetically altered crops, continues to be opposed by many EU governments including Germany, France, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg and Poland.

These countries remain wary of biotechnology and are fighting to keep the crops from their fields and out of their supermarkets.

Seehofer said the approval procedure, which tasks the EU's European Food Safety Authority or EFSA to assess possible risks GMOs could cause to human and animal health as well as effects on the environment, was also influenced by the biotech industry.

The European Commission has already said it would toughen the EU's approval system in wake of national criticism that the current system was unreliable.

A majority of EU governments led a revolt last year against the GMO procedures demanding changes in the way decisions are made in the EU's complex approval system for biotech crops.

Only three countries - Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland - have said the current system was rigorous enough to meet high public safety concerns.

A final decision to place a GMO product for use on the EU market can be made solely by the European Commission, if EU governments fail to reach a majority decision on an approval recommended by EFSA.

Seehofer said leaving such decisions to the EU executive was too risky.

'Whether something is suitable for authorization or too risky is a scientific question that has to be taken by a competent authority,' Seehofer said. Politicians should then decide on rules for cultivation and labeling of the products, he said.

The EU is under growing pressure to open its market up to GMO products after trade rivals the United States, Canada and others won a case at the World Trade Organization last year that the EU's de facto moratorium on biotech products was an unfair trade restriction.

Earlier this month, the world trade body called on the EU to lift its moratorium by Jan. 11.

The Commission is trying to force Austria and other nations to lift national bans on already approved biotech corn products.


2.EU can feed livestock without new GMOs

Friends of the Earth Europe opposes attempts to water down EU GMOs safety standards

Friends of the Earth Europe press release, 23 November 2007

Brussels, 23 November 2007 -- Friends of the Earth Europe today warned EU Farm Ministers not to slacken safety rules for imports of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The issue is up for debate at the Agriculture Council on Monday and follows a lobbying campaign by the animal feed and biotechnology industries to persuade politicians that Europe could run out of animal feed as a result of the EU's strict line on GMOs - an argument which Friends of the Earth Europe strongly disputes.

Helen Holder, GMO Campaign Co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said: 'The animal feed and biotech industries are deliberately spreading panic that the EU's tough GMO standards are threatening Europe's ability to feed its livestock. But these arguments are fatally flawed. The real reasons that animal feeds are becoming scarce are that land is being used to grow agrofuels and countries such as China are increasing their consumption of meat. The EU should not sacrifice its hard-won safety standards on the basis of illogical, scaremongering arguments from industry.'

The debate on Monday centres on industry arguments that:

*the EU's 'zero tolerance' policy towards any contamination of imports with GMOs not approved as safe should be weakened, because it is harming trade with countries that grow GM crops and have widespread contamination.

*the process for approving new GMOs should be sped up in line with the US.

Friends of the Earth Europe highlights that changes to the EU standards are not justified, because the threat of animal feed shortages is exaggerated and because rising feed prices are not caused by the EU's strict GMO standards.


A report prepared by the European Commission's DG Agriculture [1] clearly states that even if all countries currently exporting to the EU switched to growing GM maize crops not approved as safe in Europe, the EU could feed its animals with home-grown maize or from imports from other countries instead. And the EU's capacity for growing cereals is even greater since the European Commission agreed that farmers are not obliged to set aside land under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2007 or 2008.[2]


The price of soy is rising, not as a result of the EU's zero tolerance policy on GMOs, but instead because less soy is being grown for feed as more land is used to grow agrofuels - also known as biofuels. For example, the amount of land used by the United States - the world's biggest soybean producer, to grow soybeans fell by over 15 percent in 2007 due to American farmers growing maize for agrofuels instead.[3]

At the same time, the total consumption of soy-based animal feeds (soy meal/cake) is increasing by 5 percent (5 million tonnes) per year as Asian and Chinese livestock production increase to meet new demands for meat. Global supplies of soy-based feeds are decreasing by 2 percent per year. [4]

(The EU is limited in its capacity to produce protein crops by the Blairhouse Agreement with the United States which results in the EU having to import 70 percent of its plant protein).[5]

As a solution Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for the EU to:

*drop its proposals for increasing the use of agrofuels in transport

*reform the EU livestock industry to decrease its demand on protein from abroad

*address international trade issues that constrain the EU to import plant protein from abroad

*maintain zero tolerance to GMO contamination

The WTO ruling on the GMO dispute did not question the right to strict biosafety legislation nor the right of countries to ban individual GMOs.

For more information, please contact:

Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe:

Mobile +32 485 930515, [email protected]

Helen Holder, Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth Europe GMOs campaign:

Mobile +32 474 857638, [email protected]


[1] http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/envir/gmo/economic_impactGMOs_en.pdf

[2] European Commission press release IP/07/1101. Environmental groups are however concerned about the negative impact this proposal will have on biodiversity.

[3] FAO Food Outlook, November 2007

[4] FAO Food Outlook, November 2007

[5] Agreement first established in 1966, restructured since to Blairhouse Agreement:


3.EU given extra time to end GMO bans
By Laura Crowley
FoodNavigator.com, 23 November 2007

The European Union yesterday won a two month extension for ending its ban on imports of genetically modified (GMO) foods.

The extension means the EU has more time to reach conclusions over those member states implementing their own GMO bans and will avoid disciplinary action for the moment.

Last November, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ordered Europe's ban be lifted following a case brought by leading GMO producers Argentina, Canada and the US under claims that their farmers were losing millions of euros annually because of the EU.

The WTO had previously faulted the EU for undue delay in approving GMO products for a four-year period ending in 2003 and accused a number of member states of maintaining unjustified bans on those products already found safe by the EU.

Peter Power, EU spokesman for trade, confirmed to FoodNavigator.com that a negotiation has been made extending the ban, with a new deadline set as 11 January 2008. However, he was unable to comment on the reasons for requesting the extension, and what developments will be made before meeting new deadline.

However, EU member states have operated their own GMO bans, making it difficult for the Commission to comply with the WTO ruling.

Last month, EU environment ministers failed to agree on whether to force Austria to lift its national ban on two types of GM maize, produced by US biotech company Monsanto and German drugs group Bayer. The decision has now been left in the hands of the Commission.

It was the third time since 2005 that ministers had failed to reach a majority verdict, and meant the EU could not meet the WTO's original deadline of 21 November 2007.

When the EU was given this time limit, it decided not to appeal, much to the anger of green organisations who are concerned about the effect of genetic modification on the environment.

Friends of the Earth trade campaigner Sonja Meister said: 'The WTO is the wrong body for settling trade disputes. It has a long history of putting corporate interests firmly ahead of environmental protection, public safety and democracy.'

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