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2-Plants: USDA Report: Dutch Government supports GM crop research



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TITLE:  Dutch Government supports GM crop research
SOURCE: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, USA, GAIN Report Number: NL6015
        http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200604/146187590.doc
DATE:   28 Apr 2006

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Dutch Government supports GM crop research

Approved by:
Roger Wentzel
U.S. Embassy, The Hague
Prepared by:
Bob Flach

Report Highlights:  The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food
Quality tasked the Wageningen University to develop a genetically
modified (GM) potato with resistance to late blight (Phytophthora
infestans).  Six field trials with the GM maize hybrid Mon810 will be
conducted this year to establish the size of buffer zones for
coexistence purposes.


In a press release of March 31, 2006, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture,
Nature and Food Quality stated that they tasked the Wageningen
University to develop a genetically modified (GM) potato with resistance
to late blight (Phytophthora infestans). The Dutch Government pays the
project costs of Euro 9.9 million from the Economic Structural Fund (FES).
 
COGEM approved field trials with the GM potatoes.

The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) advised the
Dutch Government about the risks of field experiments with the GM
potato. COGEM concluded that the risk of cross breeding with other
potato breeds is limited as potatoes are vegetatively propagated and
potato tubers do not survive the Dutch winter. COGEM concluded that the
risks for humans and the environment are negligible.

The new GM potato breed will have huge potential benefits for the Dutch
sector. 

According to the press release of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture,
Nature and Food Quality, potato farming accounts for 80 percent of the
fungicides used in The Netherlands. The Ministry reports that production
of the new potato breed will require only half the level of the
fungicides used for conventional potatoes. If the GM potato is
successfully grown on a wide scale it would save the Dutch potato sector
about Euro 150 million annually. For developing the GM potato,
exclusively potato genes will be used. The primary objective is to use
the research results for developing GM starch potatoes for the non-food
market. But breeders could also use the research results for developing
GM table potatoes. The project will take about ten years. 

Cumbersome regulations and activists impede field trials.

Until today, successful experimental planting of biotech crops is almost
impossible in The Netherlands.  Crop trials are either effectively
prevented by cumbersome regulations imposed by the Dutch government or
impeded by the threat of protests from environmental groups. In July
2005, Dutch activists destroyed field trials with GM starch potatoes
developed by the starch company Avebe. This GM potato breed contained an
elevated content of amylopectin. The Dutch government has issued over 30
licenses for field trials of biotech crops. In 2006, only seven of these
licenses are being used: five for field experiments with GM potatoes,
one with GM apples, and one with GM flowers (carnation).  

Corn trials will confirm buffer zone requirements.

Starting this week, six one-hectare field trials of the GM maize hybrid
Mon810 will be conducted. The goal of these trials is to double-check
the necessary buffer zones with conventional and organic maize crops.
The Dutch Commission for Primary Sector Coexistence has previously
determined the buffer zones for conventional and organic crops to be 25
meters and 250 meters, respectively. For these trials no license is
needed as this maize breed is approved in the EU.  

Rules on coexistence for growing GM potatoes and corn are in place.

On November 2, 2004, the Commission for Primary Sector Coexistence
presented an agreement for coexistence to the Dutch Ministry of
Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The commission was set up to
represent all sectors of Dutch agriculture. The agreement is set within
the framework of the EC Directives 2001/18/EC and 2003/556/EC, and Dutch
Civil Law. The agreement covers rules and regulations for the production
of three products: potatoes, sugar beets and maize (see also GAIN Report
Number: NL4033 and NL5028). The Dutch sector still needs to reach
agreement on the scope of a compensation fund for possible damage to
conventional and organic crops, and a monitoring system in the field.


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