EU ‘failing to acknowledge benefits of GMs’

The European Commission has slammed government across Europe for failing to acknowledge the benefits of allowing farmers to grow genetically modified crops.

In a report published on Friday (15 April), the commission criticised countries for not providing “objective analysis” of the positive impacts GM production could have.

Based on data from member states, including studies, opinion polls and field trials, the 10-page report criticises the “lack of clarity” of analysis carried out by national government on GM technologies.

Talks on the issue must shift from “polarised perceptions to more tangible & objective results”, it says.

In its notes accompanying the report, the commission said the data from member states reflected the “polarised opinions built upon a limited fact-based background on the specific European context and preconceived ideas about GMO cultivation”.

It had been “difficult and often impossible to pinpoint clear positions or trends at national or European levels and to report them in a statistically relevant way”, it added.

While their were some gaps in the data, the commission said studies had shown yield increases for GM maize compared to maize grown by conventional farmers, as well as overall increased gross margins for farmers.

Among the seven member states which allow GM crop cultivation, yield increases of between 7% and 12.5% were reported in Portugal, Rome the Czech Republic.

The results were mirrored by evidence from non-EU countries, with the benefits of GM crops for smallholders “equal or higher than those of large farmers”, the report says.

But Mute Schimpf, Friends of the Earth Europe food campaigner, criticised the study for failing to account for “the true environmental and economic costs of GM crops”, such as potential contamination damage.

EU farmers group DG SANCO said it regretted that the available information on impacts along the food chain was “rather limited, if not absent”.

The report marked a starting point for deeper and more focused discussion among EU institutions, it added.

Mark Buckingham, of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, said it was essential farmer were given the opportunity to use GM technology so they could resources more efficiently.

“This is all the more important with rising food prices and a growing population,” he said.

“This report demonstrates yet again the benefits associated with the use of GM technology – based on the experiences of its widespread use over the past 15 years.

“Not only does GM boost farm incomes, it can also play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of farming, helping to meet emissions reductions targets.”


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