European parliament agriculture committee chairman Neil Parish has called on the EU to review its policy for approvals of GM feed.

In response to the pressure of rising feed prices on livestock farmers, Mr Parish has demanded a review of the current zero-tolerance regime on imported feedstuffs containing traces of GM soya or maize.

At present any container arriving in an EU port with even a trace of GM contamination is in danger of being sent back, thus limiting the ability of EU farmers to source non-GM feed, he says.

New varieties

Mr Parish has also asked for the EU Commission to speed up its approvals process for new varieties of GM feed deemed to be safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Recently, the Herculex variety of GM feed took 34 months to be approved for import into the EU, compared to an average of 15 months in the USA.

There are currently over 50 varieties of GM feed waiting to be approved by the Commission.

Competitive disadvantage

As 90% of meat imported into the EU comes from animals fed on GM feed varieties, many of which are unapproved in the EU, farmers in Europe are being placed at a competitive disadvantage. Non-GM soya currently costs about £65/t more than GM varieties.

“The EU Commission must address what is a fundamentally unbalanced and discriminatory system,” said Mr Parish.

“It is a great irony that we import poultry, pig and beef meet from outside the EU from animals fed on products we deny our own farmers. This helps no-one. Consumers have no idea whether their meat has been fed on GM and farmers have to pay through the nose for feed.

“We also have to address the zero tolerance issue. I am not suggesting a free-for-all on GM, but we must ensure that any threshold is fair and achievable for non-GM feed.

“With new varieties of GM soya being planted around the world, it will be virtually impossible to guarantee that any shipment into the EU is truly GM-free. I doubt anyone will bother sending GM-free shipments to the EU as a result and this will make non-GM feed even scarcer and more expensive for our farmers.

“If the EU does not take urgent action on both these issues, we are in danger of exporting much of our industry outside of the EU.”