GENET archive


REGULATION / BUSINESS: EU may miss "invisible revolution" becauseof biotech policy

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  EU may miss "invisible revolution" because of biotech policy
SOURCE: Budapest Business Journal, Hungary
AUTHOR: Bloomberg, USA
DATE:   14.03.2007

EU may miss "invisible revolution" because of biotech policy

The European Union operates an effective ban on new gene-engineered
seeds and risks missing out on the ?invisible revolution" that's
developing crops for cleaner fuels or washing detergents, the industry says.

Innovation by companies such as BASF AG and Bayer CropScience AG in
developing nutritional changes to corn, plants for use in biofuels as
well as food and feed crops that resist drought or disease is changing
the market for genetically modified technologies. The EU has yet to
approve new seeds for cultivation since lifting a five-year-old embargo
in 2004. ?The moratorium is still in place because no approvals for
cultivation have been given" by European governments, said Hans Kast,
CEO of BASF Plant Science.

?We have a go-slow situation in the EU, and the process needs to be
accelerated because there's a long queue of applications," he said in a
telephone interview from Lyon, France. In the last three months, EU
governments have refused to strike down Hungarian and Austrian bans on
imports of Monsanto Co. and Bayer biotech corn varieties. They also
blocked a BASF request to allow farmers to grow a potato genetically
modified to boost its starch content, in the first EU vote on permission
for planting of a biotech crop in eight years.

In September, the World Trade Organization ruled that the ban was
illegal and declined to find the embargo has been lifted. The European
Commission, the EU's executive in Brussels, is trying to persuade
governments to drop their opposition to the technology on environmental
or human health concerns. While biotech crops were planted in 22
countries last year, generating sales of about ?4.66 billion ($6.15
billion) for farmers, just six of the EU's then 25-nations planted
biotech crops in 2006, led by Spain with 60,000 hectares (152,400
acres), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Applications said.

Meanwhile US farmers planted three times more biotech crops last year
than their counterparts in Argentina, the second-largest user of the
technology, according to the January ISAAA report. The area sown with
biotech crops rose 13 percent last year, to 102 million hectares, the
report said. The organization, which is funded by the biotech industry,
predicts that the total area planted with such crops may double to 200
million hectares by 2015. ?People don't realize there's an invisible
revolution going on," said Bernward Garthoff, chairman of the German
Association of Biotech Industries and a board member of Bayer
CropScience, the world's biggest developer of seed protection products.

In light of the WTO ruling, ?the EU can't play at being an island
anymore; they have to accept that others regulate differently," Garthoff
said in a telephone interview from Lyon. With governments debating the
threshold allowed for gene-modified crops within conventional varieties
this year, ?we're at a turning point" for the technology, Garthoff said.
Still, environmental campaign groups such as Friends of the Earth
International say the technology hasn't boosted yields or reduced the
use of pesticides.

In a January 9 report, the group predicted that the EU ?will remain a
disaster zone for the biotech industry" because of public opposition.
?It's a vicious circle," Garthoff said. ?If you don't let a product
reach the market then it doesn't matter how good the product is, the
consumer won't back its evolution. The scientists working in the
laboratories would love to have a more favorable environment, but in the
meantime the EU is just missing out."

-------------------- archived at --------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer