GM approvals delays ‘disadvantage EU farmers’

Europe’s farmers are facing increased costs of production and unfair competition from imports due to delays to approvals of genetically-modified crops, the European Commission has been warned.

A report by Europe’s biotechnology industry said authorisation of GM crops in Europe was slowing, threatening the EU’s food security.

As well as blocking EU farmers from growing GM crops, the delay also meant imports faced disruption as the risk of unapproved varieties finding their way into Europe increased.

The report, by EuropaBio – the body representing biotechnology organisations across Europe – said the EU’s approval process for GMs took 15-20 months longer than in the United States, Brazil and Canada.

It said the number of GM crops awaiting approval in Europe had risen from 50 at the end of 2007 to 72 today. Just two GM crops are currently approved for cultivation in Europe, compared to 90 in the United States.

EuropaBio said the European Commission had to set targets for reducing the backlog of applications if European farmers were going to be set on a level playing field.

The commission denied the delays in GM approvals were as significant as EuropaBio’s report indicated and said extra priority was given to cases which could disrupt imports.

“The commission pays particular attention to authorisations which can have a major impact on trade and looks for efficiency gains whenever they are possible,” EU health and consumer spokesman Frederic Vincent said.

Andrea Graham, NFU chief scientific adviser, said imports of soya and maize from the Americas – much of which was produced using GM crops – were a crucial part of farming in the EU.

“But we are extremely concerned that political motives are slowing the EU approvals process, which limits imports, pushes the cost of feed up and squeezes European farmers’ bottom line,” she said.

“As the cost of European meat rises, European shoppers will simply buy cheap imported meat that has been fed on the same GM feed that Europe has failed to authorise itself.

“We need the European Commission to follow a science-led policy to allow EU livestock farmers to compete fairly on the world market.”

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