Changes in GM feedstuffs rules on the way?

There now seems to be momentum building up to change EU rules on GM feedstuffs in order to assist the future of the pig and poultry industries in Europe, with the Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel waxing eloquent on this issue on her blog last week after she raised the issue at the monthly Agricultural Council. According to a Reuters report, the Commissioner has indicated that a proposal on a maximum level for GMO residues in imports should be ready before the end of the year.

The problem arises for two reasons. The first is that the EU has tended to lag behind other countries in the approval of new GM varieties for use in animal feedstuffs. The EU is hugely dependent on the import of feeds, particularly soya, and as the main soya exporters, the US, Brazil and Argentina, increasingly turn to GM varieties, it is becoming increasingly difficult to source non-GM feedstuffs. This is adding to the cost of feed supplies for EU pig and poultry producers. The Commissioner is calling for a more rapid political response once the EFSA safety assessment has been made.

The second issue is that, as long as a GM variety is unapproved, no amount of this unapproved variety is allowed to enter the EU. This has resulted in a number of shipments of soybeans from the US being refused permission to offload because of the presence of minute amounts of a non-approved GM maize variety in the shipments – presumably from a previous load that the ship carried. Such uncertainty could, in the limit, mean that US exporters cease soya shipments to the EU. The obvious solution would be to raise the threshold for adventitious contamination from the current zero level to a minute level, say 0.1%, where the health risks would still be negligible.

In the absence of a solution to this problem, Europe risks losing a large part of its pig and poultry industries, to be replaced by imports of pigmeat and poultrymeat from third countries – fed on the very GM varieties that the EU has refused to authorise even when the EFSA has given the thumbs up. However, the Reuters report concludes that, given the disagreements among Member States on this issue, a solution will not be found until the new Commission takes office next year.

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