28 February 1997

GAFTA upsets NFU

WORLD-LEADING supply organ-isation, the Grain and Feed Trade Association, has upset the NFU over its policy on segregation and labelling of genetically modified products.

The NFU is unhappy with GAFTAs assertion that it is imp-ossible to segregate GM crops and that labelling would be open to fraud.

David Small, GAFTA president, said that as segregation of GM and traditional crops was not taking place at harvest, it was impractical to call for labelling of GM raw materials. Farm production techniques would have to be transformed, with no commercial incentive, if segregation was to occur.

"In the case of soya beans, it is not possible to segregate the modified soya beans which have been sown alongside or with traditional soya beans."

Mr Small said that as the EU had imported 15m tonnes of GM soya beans, and that 2% of the 60m tonne harvest was genetically modified, it was generally considered that segregation of seeds for the 1997 season was not possible.

Labelling of GM products was open to massive fraud. "No responsible commercial trader or exporter could provide 100% guarantee that their shipments were GMO free, because of their liability potential," he said.

But Vernon Barber, secretary to the NFUs biotechnology working party, said the proposed UK code of practice would require segregation if at all possible.

"It might be more expensive but the Canadians segregated GM soya beans for the Japanese market for a year, so it is possible."

On the question of fraudulent labelling, Mr Barber said that could be overcome, adding there was technology to decipher GM products. But, he admitted, the technology was only available in sophisticated laboratories. &#42