Feed crisis looms unless GM rules are relaxed, EU told

Livestock farmers face a feed crisis unless the European Union relaxes strict import rules on genetically-modified crops, Europe’s agricultural commissioner has warned.

Mariann Fischer Boel said member states must stop blocking GMs to offer a lifeline to dairy and pig producers, who face high prices for non-GM feed.

Speaking at the Farm Council, Mrs Fischer Boel said member states should speed up approvals of unauthorised GMs to avoid imports of soya being blocked.

The EU currently has a zero-tolerance policy on unapproved GMs in imported feed.

Experts have warned the policy means major soya exporting countries – such as Brazil, the USA and Argentina – might cultivate new types of GM soya before they are cleared for EU import, causing supplies of GM-free soya to dry up.

Shipments of US soyameal have already been turned away from Europe this year following the discovery of traces of an unapproved GM maize variety.

According to farm leaders, the industry faces a serious shortage of livestock feed unless the Union’s stance is reversed.

Meanwhile a report by DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency last month said feed costs could increase by 300% if the ban was maintained.

The price increase could lead to a 24-29% reduction in pig production and a 10-68% fall in poultry production, the report added.

The UK and the Netherlands were understood to be among a group of eight member states that expressed support for lifting the ban, while Austria and Poland expressed doubts.

Opposition from a handful of EU member states has repeatedly stalled the final approval of GM products that have otherwise been cleared by the European Food Safety Authority, the EU’s scientific advisory arm.

The commission says continued resistance to GMs could see European farmers lose market share to imported GM-fed meat.