UK Votes for All Six GM Applications in Europe, Commission struggles to find legal way forward on GM cultivation

by jeeg 1. July 2010 21:45

The UK voted in favour of six applications to import GM maize at yesterday’s EU Agriculture Council meeting, but none were approved because no qualified majority votes were achieved.  As most EU food companies continue to avoid GM ingredients in food, the GM maize would mainly be used for animal feed. There is currently no requirement to label products produced using GM animal feed, although legislation to change this will be voted on in the European Parliament on 7 July.  The EU’s reliance on imported animal feeds is being challenged and is the subject of a Private Member’s Bill in the UK Parliament.

These votes come at a highly sensitive time. The European Commission is attempting to speed up the approvals application process for GM crop cultivation in the EU by allowing Member States more freedom to prevent planting in return for positive votes in the European Council on GM applications.

The Commission is proposing new guidance on the coexistence of GM and other crops together with amended legislation allowing crops to be banned in all or part of territories. These are likely to run into trouble because they fail to deliver the legal grounds needed to enforce such prohibitions.

The votes at yesterday’s Agriculture Council meeting were evenly divided, with 13 members voting in favour and 13-14 voting against or abstaining. Five of the crops voted on included genetic modifications for herbicide tolerance. These enable companies to increase sales of their own-brand weed killers in the face of global competition from China (the world’s largest glyphosate manufacturer). However in South and North America weed resistance to glyphosate (the main weed killer used on herbicide tolerant crops) is developing rapidly, and farmers are resorting to more and different weed killers to try and counter this.

A recent opinion survey in the UK found 66% of respondents would like to buy meat and dairy from animals fed non-GM diet, 89% wanted products from GM fed animals to be labelled and 72% would be willing to pay extra for milk and meat to avoid the use of GM animal feed.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

“We are hugely disappointed that the UK coalition government has chosen to back the Commission instead of standing up for what consumers want. People in the UK clearly do not want GM anywhere near their food, and by voting in favour of all six applications yesterday the government has shown complete disregard for the rights of the UK population to avoid the use of GM crops in their diet.

“The Commission is desperate to speed up the GM approvals process in the mistaken belief that GM crops will boost the economy. Fortunately many other EU members don’t agree and want far tougher safety assessments and guarantees that crops, seeds and products can be produced without contamination.

“Yesterday’s votes were another blow for the Commission and further indication that Members States will not be bullied into accepting GM crops based on false promises.”




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