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Delays in GM authorisation costing EU livestock sector 2,500 million Euros

Delays in authorizing GM traits in feed and a zero tolerance on non-authorized material has accounted for about 15% of the losses incurred by the EU livestock sector - and matters will only get worse

October 15, 2008

Delays in GM authorisation costing EU livestock sector 2,500 million Euros 

Delays in authorizing GM traits in feed and a zero tolerance on non-authorized material has accounted for about 15% of the losses incurred by the EU livestock sector - some 2,500 million Euros in the past year, according to a report sent to European Commission President, Dr José Manuel Barroso.

The case study report, prepared by COCERAL, FEFAC and UECBV with UK input from the Agricultural Industries Confederation, recognises that the poor harvest in 2007 was a key problem, but the inability to import feedstuffs from around the world also had a significant impact. New GM maize varieties have been approved and grown elsewhere in the world, but are not yet approved in the EU.

"Zero tolerance on new GM unapproved EU varieties has practically stopped the import of maize gluten feed and Corn Distillers," said Tony Bell, Chairman of AIC's Feed Executive. "These are both valuable feed ingredients, especially in a year of shortages."

Looking forward, the report predicts that that matters will get worse as new GM soya varieties, grown for seed multiplication in 2008, will be commercialised in 2009. These new varieties show significant benefits, especially higher yields, and so will be rapidly taken up by farmers in North and South America. It is vital these new GM varieties are approved by the EU otherwise soya supplies will be severely curtailed.

"Soya supplies are critical to the EU livestock industry," added Mr Bell. "There are real dangers that our livestock industry will be destroyed due to lack of raw material supplies. Soya products are a vital protein component of animal feeds. Overall the EU is 78% dependent on imported vegetable proteins and options to replace soya are very limited either from domestic production or alternative imported products."

Finding GM-free soya beans is increasingly difficult. Crops in Argentina and USA are already 95-97% GM, while Brazil is heading for 80%. Thus, technically unavoidable residues with these new GM varieties will be found in the non-GM soya as well as in GM supplies. So buying non-GM soya would not help in this difficult situation.

"A zero tolerance of non-authorised GM traits would severely restrict soya imports as shippers will not take the risk," said Mr Bell. "In fact it is not just one GM variety that needs to be approved, there are over 70 new traits in the pipeline. These are bringing new benefits to growers and consumers such as elevated levels of omega 3 as well as other agronomic traits such as drought resistance."

Looking ahead to the marketing year 2008/2009, the report confirms earlier estimates that the EU livestock industry could face a massive loss of competitiveness. As EU livestock production declines, then imports will increase.

"Ironically these imports would have been fed these 'non-approved' GM products," points out Mr Bell. "Therefore, the EU has to take a practical view and implement a workable threshold for GM events. It also needs to implement a speedier process for approvals for new GM varieties that are being grown elsewhere in the world."

Recently, the EU Advisory Group 'cereals, oilseeds and protein crops' concluded that: "The Zero-tolerance policy is impossible to implement . it has led to de facto import bans. The situation is likely to worsen as more and more countries are growing GMO's worldwide regardless of the approval process of the EU."

In September, the advisory group adopted a motion calling for the creation of an immediate workable threshold for low-level presence of RR2 soybeans and the creation of a general workable threshold of EU not yet authorised GM events, duly authorised in the exporting countries.

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