GM approval delays by EU puts Irish poultry sector at risk

The poultry industry is at risk from the slow pace of EU approval of genetically modified maize, soya and other protein crops, because it is at a competitive disadvantage by having to use more-costly non-GM feeds.

“I think GM is really going to influence the future of feed,” said David Green of the American Soybean Association (ASA), at the recent Bord Bia Irish Poultry & Egg Conference. “GM soybeans are being approved in many countries in a good timeframe, so the EU will lose out if its system of approval remains so cumbersome.”

The delay in introducing Herculex corn cost €40m (£32.6m) [for replacement feeds]. As new GM soybeans were introduced, approval delays in the EU could cost up to €2bn (£1.6bn) a year.

No GM crop had been approved by a qualified majority in the EU, he said. When that approval process failed, the next stage was that the EU Commission took it forward as happened with Herculex. The average time for approval in the US was 15-18 months compared with three years or more in the EU.

The USA grew 27m hectares of soya and in 1996, only 900,000t of that was GM, whereas the 2008-2009 harvest would be 95% GM, said Mr Green.

“Non GM soya is outside the commodity chain. Farmers in the USA will grow it on request, but there is a cost. For example, organic non-GM soya grown for tofu for human consumption in Japan is three times more expensive than commodity GM soya.”

Argentina was already producing almost all GM-soya (99.5%), and Brazil, which only approved GM in 2003, had already converted 65% of its soybean crop to GM, added Mr Green. Both countries were developing their own GM crops adapted to local climates.