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CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: U.S. government presses EU agriculture commissioner on GE crops



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   BIOTECH FOOD? NO THANKS, WE?RE EUROPEAN

SOURCE:  The Des Moines Register, USA

AUTHOR:  Philip Brasher

URL:     http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2011/02/09/biotech-food-no-thanks-were-european/

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "?We have our tradition for food and we have our appreciation for what it means for the quality of food,? said the European Union?s agriculture commissioner, Dacian Ciolos. ?When you ask the citizens they want to use more sure products, consume more sure products, more quality products,? he told reporters at the EU?s Washington offices. [...] Ciolos, a Romanian trained in agricultural engineering and economics [...] said he was pressed on the biotech issue by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk."

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BIOTECH FOOD? NO THANKS, WE?RE EUROPEAN

EU ag chief says no to biotech

Don?t look for Europeans to give much ground any time soon on their resistance to genetically engineered foods, products that are common in the United States.

?We have our tradition for food and we have our appreciation for what it means for the quality of food,? said the European Union?s agriculture commissioner, Dacian Ciolos.

?When you ask the citizens they want to use more sure products, consume more sure products, more quality products,? he told reporters at the EU?s Washington offices. ?They buy the food, so they have the right to choose this food.?

Ciolos, a Romanian trained in agricultural engineering and economics, is in Washington this week for meetings with Obama administration officials and members of Congress. He said he was pressed on the biotech issue by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. Europe?s resistance to agricultural biotechnology has long been viewed as a major obstacle to winning acceptance for biotech crops in Africa.

Ciolos told reporters the biotech issue ?is a preoccupation of American authorities? and that they are following the ?scientific analysis from one side, the producer of this GMO.? GMO, a common acronym for biotech crops, stands for genetically modified organism.

Most of the corn, soybeans and cotton now grown in the United States have been genetically engineered to resist insect pests or herbicides.

The biotech issue aside, European farmers do have something in common with U.S. producers when it comes to their government subsidies. With budgets under pressure and 12 new member countries to cover, European Union leaders are considering reforms to direct farm payments that include caps on how much money the biggest growers can collect.

Ciolos said cuts to some farms are going to be a necessity to maintain taxpayer support for the program and to spread payments more fairly. It?s ?very difficult to explain to the taxpayers? why large farmers get ?hundreds of thousands of euros or even a million? euros a year in subsidies, he said.

He?s working on reforms that would include tying the payments to environmental performance. The payments also would no longer be linked to the commodities and yields that a farm has historically produced. The idea of the reforms, he said, is ?to stimulate big farms to be more competitive and to deal with not only the productivity but also good management of natural resources, climate change and so on.?

Previous proposals to cap payments to individual farms at 300,000 euros, or about $410,000, have been rejected. About a thousand farms now receive more than 1 million euros a year. Payments also vary by country for historical reasons. German farms receive about $1,000 an acre yearly, compared to less than $700 an acre for growers in neighboring Poland.

The EU?s Common Agricultural Policy, the equivalent of the U.S. farm bill, is due to be rewritten by 2014. The EU?s system of direct farm payments total $59 billion a year and account for more than two-thirds of total agricultural spending. Most of the rest goes toward rural development programs, which include payments intended to maintain small farms. By comparison, U.S. farmers receive about $5 billion annually in direct payments, with about 10 percent of that money going to Iowa.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   EU COMMITTEE DELAYS VOTE ON TRACE GM IN FEED: SOURCES

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Charlie Dunmore & Ilona Wissenbach

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/us-eu-gmo-imports-idUSTRE7183FD20110209

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A European Union committee failed to reach a decision on Wednesday on a proposal to allow tiny traces of unapproved genetically modified material in animal feed imports to the bloc, EU sources said. After two days of talks in Brussels, opposition to the plan from a number of EU states, including France, meant that the committee could not reach the qualified majority in favor needed under the bloc?s weighted voting rules, a source close to the meeting said."

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EU COMMITTEE DELAYS VOTE ON TRACE GM IN FEED: SOURCES

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Union committee failed to reach a decision on Wednesday on a proposal to allow tiny traces of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in animal feed imports to the bloc, EU sources said. After two days of talks in Brussels, opposition to the plan from a number of EU states, including France, meant that the committee could not reach the qualified majority in favor needed under the bloc?s weighted voting rules, a source close to the meeting said. Rather than abandon the proposal, discussion among EU governments will continue at a future meeting, an EU diplomat on the committee told Reuters. Another source said the talks could resume as early as February 22. The proposed 0.1 percent threshold is designed to avoid a repeat of supply disruptions in 2009, when U.S. soy shipments to Europe were blocked after unapproved GM material was found in some cargoes.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   STALEMATE ON EU DECISION ON TRACE GM IN FEED

SOURCE:  All About Feed, THe Netherlands

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.allaboutfeed.net/news/stalemate-on-eu-decision-on-trace-gm-in-feed-5265.html

DATE:    10.02.2011

SUMMARY: "European feed manufacturers association Fefac had called on Member States to urgently adopt the ?technical solution? of 0.1% tolerance. Fefac President Patrick Vanden Avenne said that, ?the EU cannot afford to wait any longer after almost five years of discussion on the impact of the EU zero-tolerance policy on traces of GMOs not yet approved in the EU in feed materials imported from third countries?. ?The EU livestock sector, in particular the pig farmers, is currently facing the most severe crisis for decades."

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STALEMATE ON EU DECISION ON TRACE GM IN FEED

 

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NOTE by GMWATCH/UK: The EU?s policy of zero tolerance for unapproved GM contamination of animal feed is under attack from the biotech lobby and sectors of the animal feed supply chain. But it?s important to note that no shipment of animal feed has been rejected in the EU because of contamination with unapproved GMOs since summer 2009. So the 4 billion euro cost increases felt in the feed supply chain referred to in the article below are nothing to do with zero tolerance.

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A European Union committee was not able to reach a qualified majority on Wednesday for a proposal to allow imports with minute levels of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in animal feed. European feed manufacturers disappointed.

Stalemate on EU decision on trace GM in feed

Opposition to the plan from a number of EU states, including France, meant that the committee could not reach the qualified majority after two days of talks in Brussels.

Rather than abandon the proposal, discussion among EU governments will continue at a future meeting, an EU diplomat on the committee told reporters from Reuters. February 22 was mentioned as a possible date.

?The European Commission takes note of the fact that some member states have requested a prolongation of the discussion on the issue,? the EU?s executive said in a statement.

Adoption will now depend on whether France can be convinced to reverse its opposition to the plan, as other sceptical states are unlikely to change their position, sources close to the issue said.

Only feed

If adopted, the 0.1 threshold would only apply to imports of animal feed and not human food, despite warnings from exporting states that it is impractical and costly to separate global grain supplies into those destined for food and those for feed.

A majority of EU governments seems to be in favour of a similar threshold for food imports.

Fefac favours 0.1%

European feed manufacturers association Fefac had called on Member States to urgently adopt the ?technical solution? of 0.1% tolerance.

Fefac President Patrick Vanden Avenne said that, ?the EU cannot afford to wait any longer after almost five years of discussion on the impact of the EU zero-tolerance policy on traces of GMOs not yet approved in the EU in feed materials imported from third countries?.

?The EU livestock sector, in particular the pig farmers, is currently facing the most severe crisis for decades.

?It?s time for the EU to catch up with the reality of global expansion of GM crop acreage to ensure feed and food security of EU livestock farmers and consumers by adopting the technical solution? as a first step in the right direction,? he said.

Cost rise

Independent economic impact assessments for continuation of the zero-tolerance policy show a cost increase of almost ?4 billion for partners in the feed chain, livestock industry and EU consumers.

The cost tag could rise even higher in the coming months should the EU not be able to import anymore soybean meal from South America.

Farmers? support

Several governments back the move on GM-crops and so do farmers? organisations. Irish Farmers Association President John Bryan said that ?at a time of rising input costs, it is critical that Irish producers are not left at a disadvantage because of delays in authorising feed.?

Bryan said pig producers, in particular, have been under severe pressure as their input costs have risen dramatically in the last six months.

?They are losing ?15 on every pig produced, something which is not sustainable and is placing thousands of jobs at risk. They are finding it very difficult to source credit, and they must have access to the most cost-effective feed supplies to compete in the global market.?



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:   BRUSSELS MOOTS GM BAN TO PREVENT PROTESTS

SOURCE:  Farmers Weekly, UK

AUTHOR:  Caroline Stocks

URL:     http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/02/08/125411/Brussels-moots-GM-ban-to-prevent-protests.htm

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Genetically-modified crops could be banned in Europe to prevent public protests, according to a draft list of rules by the European Commission. Under plans to give member states the freedom to decide whether to grow GM crops, bans could also be justified to keep public order, as well as on religious or philosophical grounds over concerns about the technology."

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BRUSSELS MOOTS GM BAN TO PREVENT PROTESTS

Genetically-modified crops could be banned in Europe to prevent public protests, according to a draft list of rules by the European Commission.

Under plans to give member states the freedom to decide whether to grow GM crops, bans could also be justified to keep public order, as well as on religious or philosophical grounds over concerns about the technology.

The list of rules was drawn up after member states asked the Commission for clearer guidance on what grounds they could ban or agree to growing GMs.

Without proper legal arguments, member states said they were concerned cultivation bans could leave them open to legal challenges from the World Trade Organisation.

While the list has not been finalised, the document says the rules could be invoked by members to restrict or allow the growth of GMs in all or part of a country.

Other possible reasons on the list include safeguarding producer and consumer choice to grow and buy non-GM, planning decisions and preserving traditional farming practices.

The report, which is set to be discussed by EU experts on Friday (11 February), adds that member states must ensure the restrictions are ?justified, proportionate and non-discriminatory?.

A Commission spokesman told Reuters the EU executive would wait to gauge the reaction from governments, but there were no plans to amend current GM cultivation proposals to add the rules at this time.

The Commission proposed giving governments the power to decide on bans in July last year, in a bid to break the deadlock in GM crop approvals, which has only seen two varieties approved for cultivation in Europe in 12 years.