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2-Plants: Romanian GM ban slammed by biotech industry

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TITLE:  Romanian GM ban slammed by biotech industry
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France, by Anthony Fletcher
DATE:   23 Feb 2006

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Romanian GM ban slammed by biotech industry

23/02/2006 - Europes biotech industry has criticised Romania's proposed
ban on transgenic soybeans, claiming that the decision will negatively
impact both the European food industry and consumers.

Transgenic soybeans conferring resistance to a popular herbicide have EU
approval for use in food and feed but this product is awaiting EU
approval for cultivation.
"Romanian farmers have been growing these crops safely for years and
benefiting in terms of the increased income," said Simon Barber,
director of the plant biotech unit (PBU) of EuropaBio, the European
association for the biotech industry.

"We urge the Romanian government to explore the possibilities for
allowing farmers continued access to this technology."

The Romanian government announced the move after a high level meeting a
few weeks ago.

"It was decided to ban GM (genetically modified) soy, starting with 1
January 2007 in accordance with current EU regulations," it said in a

"Romania will continue harmonising the national legislation with the
European legislation and constituting the institutional framework to
implement it, in order to enforce the inspection and control system of
GMO related activities."

But EuropaBio believes that the proposals could affect the whole of
Europe. It says that when Romania joins the EU, it will be the only
country that is able to grow substantial quantities of soybeans.

"Last year alone, tens of thousands of hectares of GM soybeans were
grown in Romania, a large part of which was exported to the European
Union for use in animal feed," said Barber.

"To deny Romanian farmers access to this technology would leave them at
a competitive disadvantage versus Brazilian, Canadian and US soybean
suppliers, who are already exporting this same product to the EU."

Demand for genetically modified crops has increased dramatically in the
space of a decade. Farmer demand has driven annual double-digit
increases in biotech crop adoption since the crops were first
commercialised, according to the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), with four new
countries and a quarter million more farmers planting biotech crops last year.

The 8.5 million farmers planting biotech crops in 2005 also marked a
significant milestone as the 1 billionth cumulative acre, or 400
millionth hectare, was planted.

EuropaBio argues that herbicide resistant soybeans have resulted in huge
environmental benefits. It says that farmers in Romania have benefited
by an average yield increase of 31 per cent, reduced costs of between
44.4 and 61.5 per hectare, and improved crop quality.

But opponents argue that after ten years of GM crops, no benefits to
consumers or the environment have materialised.

"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of
the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured
and that these crops are neither cheaper nor better quality," said
Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth (FoE) Nigeria.

All this of course is happening in the context of the recent WTO ruling,
which said that the EU and six member states broke trade rules by
barring entry to GM crops and foods. The world trade organisation agreed
with the United States, Argentina and Canada that an effective
moratorium on GMO imports between June 1999 and August 2003 had been put
in place.

The pro-GM nations argued these prohibitions were not scientifically
justified and thus contrary to WTO rules. The US food industry has
persistently said that the EU ban has cost them some $300 million a year
in lost sales. The EU on the other hand has consistently denied the
existence of a moratorium, citing that no official communication to this
effect has ever been made.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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