GENET archive


APPROVAL: Update on GMO approvals in the EU

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Reuters

AUTHOR: Missy Ryan


DATE:   01.08.2007

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. biotechnology industry is awaiting this fall’s deadline for Europe to speed up its approval of new biotech food and crops -- a process Washington has long complained is woefully slow -- in the hope of increased access to a major market.

After a World Trade Organization ruling last year found ”undue delays” in Europe’s approval of biotech products, the EC has until November 21 to bring its system up to speed.

”We still ... are not getting approvals through (the European) Commission, much less on a timely ... and science-based basis,” said Sharon Bomer, vice president of industry group BIO, which includes major biotech players such as BASF Plant Sciences, a unit of Germany’s BASF, and Bayer Cropscience.

Yet the industry is hoping the Bush administration won’t have to press its complaint further at the WTO, which could ultimately lead to trade retaliations. Instead, it wants an amicable agreement to a conflict that has ruffled trans-Atlantic trade relations for years.

After a challenge from the United States, Canada, and Argentina in 2003, the WTO found the EC had a de facto moratorium on approving biotech products from 1999 to 2003.

Canice Nolan, who heads food safety affairs for the European Commission’s delegation in Washington, said the EC is studying how to tighten up its internal processes and assessing other steps to streamline its approval system.

”We plan to have this done before the time limit runs out,” Nolan said.

EU-U.S. discussions are continuing on the issue, with the next meeting scheduled for October, Bomer said.

Biotech products are increasingly common the world over and are used in animal feed, human food and other products. Genetic modification can, among other things, boost vitamin content in food or make crops resistant to pesticides.

But they are divisive in Europe, where some consumers worry about their safety. The issue has also polarized the bloc’s member states, with some routinely opposing new approvals.

Bomer said the case is important not only because other countries may look to Europe for guidance on biotech regulation, but also because the bloc’s ”zero-tolerance” approach on unapproved products has the potential to derail massive trade flows from nations with more permissive systems.

”It has a tremendous impact on billions of dollars worth of trade when our approval systems are so disparate,” she said.

A recent internal report last month said the EU took at least 2-1/2 years, and often much longer, to complete new GMO authorizations, compared with 15 months in the United States.

The issue rankles some in Washington. Last fall, a group of lawmakers pressed U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to do more to force compliance from Europe.

Schwab’s office declined comment on what steps the United States would take if it deems that Europe still falls short.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Reuters



DATE:   06.08.2007

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please download the EFSA Statement at:

EFSA statement on the fate of recombinant DNA or proteins in the meat, milk or eggs of animals fed with GM feed 



BRUSSELS - Animals that have eaten genetically modified (GMO) feed show no residual traces in their eggs or meat, the EU’s food safety agency said on Friday.

In February, the European Commission received a petition from international environment group Greenpeace and signed by one million EU citizens demanding special labels for dairy and other products where the animals had eaten GMO feed.

The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, then asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for its views on the potential for transgenes or their products to be incorporated into animal tissues on food products such as eggs and milk.

”To date, a large number of experimental studies with livestock have shown that recombinant DNA fragments or proteins derived from GM plants have not been detected in tissues, fluids or edible products of farm animals like broilers, cattle, pigs or quails,” EFSA said in a report analysing 19 separate studies.

The European Union has thresholds for how much GMO material may be present in foods and animal feed before being labelled as biotech. But those rules, which came into force in 2004, do not apply to meat and dairy products coming from a GMO-fed animal.

For green groups, opposed to biotechnology and which have long complained about the issue, this exemption is a glaring hole in the EU’s labyrinthine laws on GMO foods.

But for the biotech and animal feed industry it would be unthinkable and unacceptable to change the status quo since they insist their products are no different from conventional foods and therefore pose no health risk.

The bulk of EU feed imports, mainly soybeans and maize, comes from countries like the United States where GMO crops are common through the crop supply chain. Around 90 percent of the EU’s imports of GMO grain and oilseeds are used as animal feed.

EU feed manufacturers say the constant need to import high-protein feed materials makes it impossible to supply non-GMO feed on a large scale.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, UK

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   02.07.2007

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An EU decision which ignores the findings of EU top scientists will mean a significant increase in feed costs for livestock farmers. The EU, last week, failed to approve the import of by - products, such as corn gluten and corn distillers from the Herculex maize variety from the United States.

This effectively stops the import of corn products into Europe - materials which are cost effective ingredients, particularly in cattle rations where they are widely used in Ireland as an alternative to high priced cereals.

”Not only will this impact on feed prices as we will have to source alternative ingredients to replace the 1 million tonnes of maize products which are imported into Ireland each year, but other countries which are feed exporters such as the US, Argentina and Brazil, have no problem using these products and will have an even greater advantage over our farmers” says Robin Irvine, President of the NI Grain Trade Association.

He added ”This couldn’t happen at a worse time as we are seeing the prices of all feed materials increasing rapidly in response to the demand from the energy and Bio- fuel sector. What is even more worrying is the fact that another two varieties of US corn, approved for use in the US but not in the EU will be harvested in September 2007. This means that the new crop material will also be banned and based on experience with Herculex their approval could take up to two years.”

Europe has been assessing the Herculex variety of genetically modified maize since 2005 and while it has been passed by top EU scientists the ”Green” lobby in countries such as Ireland and Austria have ensured that the vote did not achieve the qualified majority necessary to allow access to the EU. The Irish stance on this is difficult to understand since their livestock industry also needs these products to remain competitive. In fact, over 50% of these corn products come to the UK and Ireland.

The issue poses fundamental questions for European food production and Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson was critical of the countries who refused to authorise GM crops which have been passed as safe by the top EU scientists. ”We must stand by the science” said Mandelson, ”We must not allow the positive arguments for bio-technology to be lost because governments are afraid or unable to make the case to their citizens. European farmers may soon find that importing GM free feed for their livestock is a difficult and expensive exercise.

”We do not have the available land both to farm animals and grow the feed they need. Unless we close the gap between GM approvals in the EU and in feed exporting countries such as the US, Argentina and Brazil, we may have hungry cows and struggling farmers.”

Health commissioner Markos Kyprianou also expressed his concern stating that ”It is not possible in current conditions to meet the EU feed demand with non - GM feed”.

Robin Irvine continued ”This is another development which reduces the competitiveness of local food production. This can only increase the move to import more food for European consumers from outside the community - from countries where vastly different standards apply in relation to GM crops and other food safety issues.

”The NI Grain Trade Association will be lobbying political representatives and point out that is of vital importance that farmers do likewise in order to press for an early resolution of these approvals in the EU.”

Background Information: Threat To Corn Gluten And Corn Distillers Imports

The situation on imports of US Corn Gluten and US Corn Distillers has become more difficult after the EU Standing Committee this week failed to gain a qualified majority in favour of approving the variety of Corn know as Herculex.. It had been expected that approval would be granted at the meeting on 25th June 2007. The next likely opportunity for approval could be as late as October or November 2007.

This effectively means that shipments of these goods from the USA have been suspended awaiting final approval by the EU Commission later this year.

There are another two varieties of US Corn, approved for use in the US but unapproved in the EU that will be harvested in September 2007. This means that based upon the experience with Herculex we will not be able to import these by-products into Europe.

With new varieties continually coming on stream it is possible that we will be denied access to these by products for the foreseeable future if the EU politicians maintain their current attitude.


Why is this so important for farmers in the UK and Ireland?

The UK and Ireland are currently among a group of five EU countries that are main users of these materials, using approximately 1.7m tonnes out of a total EU usage of 3m tonnes. [ see table ] The loss of these materials will have a disproportionate effect on the costs of livestock production in Northern Ireland. These materials are particularly valuable to farmers in Northern Ireland as they allow for substitution away from grains and other products that are more readily available on the Continent. The corn products can be shipped direct into Northern Ireland from the US while many of the alternative materials would only be available in Northern Ireland at a premium to their cost on the Continent. This is entirely due to the high costs of transportation.

The final price paid to farmers is determined by the large multiple retailer and it is unlikely that these extra costs can be recovered. Northern Ireland farmers will therefore suffer increased feed costs making them less competitive and vulnerable to imports from the global food market.

Therefore it is of vital importance for farmers to lobby their political representatives to press for an early resolution to the issues of GMO approvals in the EU.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Belfast Telegraph

AUTHOR: Linda McKee


DATE:   03.08.2007

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Animal feed costs could rocket by 25% in the next two years if the EU does not approve a genetically modified strain of maize. That’s the message from the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA), which is warning that food production in the EU could become uncompetitive as a result. Ulster consumers will no longer be able to choose between imported meat and competitively priced local meat, but will instead have to pay high prices for local produce, NIGTA president Robin Irvine warned yesterday. In a briefing to food processors and retailers, he insisted that a lack of decision-making in Brussels is putting European food production and safety at risk. The GM maize trait Herculex was pronounced safe for import for animal and human food, but EU approval is pending. Mr Irvine said: ”The EU and particularly Northern Ireland is dependant on the import of protein-rich feeds such as soya and maize products, and predictions by Brussels officials are that approval delays could mean that feed costs in Europe could reach an increase of 25% by 2009. This will make food production in the EU completely uncompetitive.”

                                  PART 5

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SOURCE: Roscommon Herald, Ireland



DATE:   01.08.2007

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THE DECISION by the Minister for Agriculture to u-turn on Government policy to date on the importation of genetically modified (GM) feed has the potential to badly damage Irish agriculture, according to Deputy Frank Feighan.

”Fine Gael has continually called for a full debate on GM in agriculture but the Government up to now has persistently refused to engage in one.

There is no getting way from the fact that these decisions have huge implications that need to be fully thought through and not developed on a political whim. In 2006, €144.6m worth of animal feed was imported into Ireland, of which 97% contained some genetically engineered material.

The fact is that the vast majority of imported animal feed now used by Irish farmers has been genetically modified in some manner we cannot pretend otherwise.

”One of the consequences of the Nitrates Directive, which penalises grass-based production systems as we have here in Ireland, is that there will be even greater demand for imported feed in the future.

However, despite assurances to the contrary from the Agriculture Minister, the Irish Government decided in June to abstain on an EU vote which has the effect that animal feed companies here will no longer be able to import maize by-products from the US,” he said.

”I am informed by the Connacht Gold Feed Mill that 800,000 tonnes of maize byproducts which are used in the production of animal feed are imported from the US every year. Connacht Gold, like other animal feed companies, is now in the position of having to source replacement ingredients and estimates that this could lead to an additional cost of up to €50 million a year. The knock-on effect on the price of feed and therefore on farmers’ margins is obvious and potentially very damaging.

”It is now time for a full debate on the whole GM issue and not off-the-cuff, knee-jerk policy which determines this issue in isolation from the broader and more practical factors which must be considered. Fine Gael believes that the best way to facilitate such a debate is to establish a Dáil Committee on Science & Technology which would, as its first function, facilitate a fully informed debate on GM food, feed and crops and their use or not in this country.

”As the Taoiseach has not yet established the Dáil Committees, now is an ideal opportunity to have a specific forum not only to deal with the issue of GM but all other scientific developments which have an impact on society and our economy.

”Such a recommendation was made a number of years ago by an all party Oireachtas committee and a similar committee is in place in many other EU Countries including the UK. It is high time that we have a mechanism to bring facts on scientific developments into the public domain instead of half truths that are spun to the benefit of one side or another,” concluded Deputy Feighan.



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