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CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: EU succumbs to U.S. pressure on GM contamination



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   EU SUCCUMBS TO U.S. PRESSURE ON GM CONTAMINATION

SOURCE:  Food & Water Watch Europe, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/eu-succumbs-to-u-s-pressure-on-gm-contamination/

DATE:    23.02.2011

SUMMARY: "?This spectacularly shortsighted move comes after years of intense pressure from U.S. biotech lobbyists looking to cut the costs segregating out crops the EU has not yet approved,? said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe. [...] The move comes under the guise of easing farmers? access to cheap feed, with the industry arguing that EU restrictions have made it more difficult to import GM soya. But a mere .2 % of all EU feed imports have ever been turned back because they contained unapproved GMOs, and none have been refused since 2009. All of the shipments ever refused have been from the U.S."

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EU SUCCUMBS TO U.S. PRESSURE ON GM CONTAMINATION

Industry spent over half a billion lobbying for pro-GMO policies in past decade

BRUSSELS AND WASHINGTON ? Today, the head of Brussels-based Food & Water Europe and Washington D.C.-based Food & Water Watch denounced a recent EU Animal Committee vote to permit animal feed contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as ?spectacularly shortsighted.?

The EU committee responsible for animal health has voted to accept what it calls a ?technical solution? to GM contamination of animal feed that will permit up to 0.1% of imports to contain GM traits that have not been assessed as safe under European regulations.

?This spectacularly shortsighted move comes after years of intense pressure from U.S. biotech lobbyists looking to cut the costs segregating out crops the EU has not yet approved,? said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe. Since 1999, the 50 largest agricultural and food patent holding companies and two of the largest biotechnology and agrochemical trade associations have spent more than $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures in the U.S.

The move comes under the guise of easing farmers? access to cheap feed, with the industry arguing that EU restrictions have made it more difficult to import GM soya. But a mere .2 % of all EU feed imports have ever been turned back because they contained unapproved GMOs, and none have been refused since 2009. All of the shipments ever refused have been from the U.S.

?By exaggerating the situation and inflaming concerns among beleaguered EU livestock farmers, the industry has successfully and dishonestly painted a ?life or death? scenario for them,? said Hauter.

The move does not diminish the need for Europe to urgently address its reliance on imported proteins for animal feed, nor does it coincide with the wishes of European consumers, who have consistently rejected GMOs at the checkout counter.

Food & Water Europe and Food & Water Watch called on the U.S. to stop pressuring other countries to accept its choices for food and agriculture. ?Every country has the right to plant and eat what they choose without interference from unaccountable multinational agribusinesses,? said Hauter.

The organisation also called for real labels on all meat, milk, eggs and dairy products denoting where GM feed is not used, so consumers can avoid GMOs if they choose.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   EU RULE CHANGE LEADS TO GM-FEED FIGHT

SOURCE:  The Wall Street Journal, USA

AUTHOR:  Caroline Henshaw

URL:     http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/02/23/eu-rule-change-leads-to-gm-feed-fight/

DATE:    23.02.2011

SUMMARY: "?I don?t think this has anything to tell us about a changing political attitude; it?s just a pragmatic reaction to the problem of high feed prices,? said the acting director general of the U.K.?s National Farmers Union Martin Haworth. ?Frankly it?s a disappointment that it doesn?t go as far as it should.? [...] Limiting the proposals to grains for use as animal feed, not human consumption, will also be ?virtually unworkable,? he said."

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EU RULE CHANGE LEADS TO GM-FEED FIGHT

Measures voted in by European Union officials this week to allow trace amounts of unauthorized genetically-modified material in animal feed may not signal the shift in attitude heralded by many pro-GM campaigners.

While some have seen the decision to allow the presence of GMO material of up to 0.1% in feed imports as a victory for the pro-GM lobby, industry bodies say the proposals are now too watered-down to have much impact.

?I don?t think this has anything to tell us about a changing political attitude; it?s just a pragmatic reaction to the problem of high feed prices,? said the acting director general of the U.K.?s National Farmers Union Martin Haworth. ?Frankly it?s a disappointment that it doesn?t go as far as it should.?

Under changes made to the proposals, any GM material found in shipments must already be authorized in the exporting country and, crucially, must also be pending approval in the EU to be allowed.

Mr Hawthorn pointed out that increasingly, companies are not applying for licenses in the EU as approval takes so long compared to other countries, like the U.S. Only two varieties of GM crops are approved for cultivation in the EU.

Limiting the proposals to grains for use as animal feed, not human consumption, will also be ?virtually unworkable,? he said.

Policy-makers have come under pressure to relax the EU?s zero-tolerance rules on GM traces in imports this season as grain prices have risen. Many European farmers face making a loss this year as feed prices, which accounts for up to 60% of input costs, have doubled from last year while meat prices have failed to keep pace.

Anti-GM regulations are seen as putting extra pressure on livestock producers because they present a potential barrier to cheaper imports from abroad. The EU relies on imports for almost 80% of its feed needs but the vast majority are supplied by Argentina, Brazil and the U.S.?some of the world?s largest cultivators of GM crops?meaning avoiding even traces of contamination is virtually impossible.

Critics of biotechnology agreed that the move to relax restrictions is more of a reflection of the power of EU lobby groups than a genuine shift in policy.

?The step made yesterday was just another step under pressure from the GMO industry. People still want to eat GMO-free food,? said Antje Koelling, policy coordinator for EU group IFOAM.

Yet voices in the pro-GM lobby disagreed. They pointed to a study released Tuesday showing that world cultivation of biotech crops rose 10% last year and now covers an area the size of China, including in a record eight EU countries, as signaling a shift toward a more relaxed attitude toward biotechnology.

?In terms of an economic or practical step it?s very limited, but it is a huge political step,? said Dr Julian Little, chair of the U.K.?s Agricultural Biotechnology Council. ?This punches a very large hole in the mantra that, unless it?s been given full regulatory approval, a GM crop must be somehow toxic.?



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   MEPS DEBATE NATIONAL POWERS OVER GMS

SOURCE:  European Voice, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Jennifer Rankin

URL:     http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/meps-debate-national-powers-over-gms/70337.aspx

DATE:    24.02.2011

SUMMARY: "National governments should have greater powers to refuse permission for genetically modified crops to be grown on their territory when faced with uncertain science, a leading MEP will say next week. [...] In her draft position for the Parliament on the EU?s approval system, [Corinne Lepage, a French Liberal MEP] calls for greater national autonomy to reject GM crops in the case of uncertainties over their consequences for the environment."

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MEPS DEBATE NATIONAL POWERS OVER GMS

Report suggests letting member states refuse approval of GM crops.

National governments should have greater powers to refuse permission for genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown on their territory when faced with uncertain science, a leading MEP will say next week.

This is what Corinne Lepage, a French Liberal MEP, will urge in a report she will present to the Parliament?s environment committee on Monday (28 February). In her draft position for the Parliament on the EU?s approval system, Lepage calls for greater national autonomy to reject GM crops in the case of uncertainties over their consequences for the environment. Conditions vary so widely across the Europe that no single EU-wide assessment can capture all the risks, she argues.

Stalemate

The European Commission shares her ambition to allow more freedom to governments to ban GM crops in the hope of breaking the longstanding stalemate over approvals at EU level.

The Commission insists that health and environmental grounds cannot be invoked, since this could breach single-market rules. Instead, the Commission?s list of suggested grounds include public unrest or religious, philosophical and ethical upset. Lepage doubts whether public order and morality would provide national governments with sufficient legal protection against challenge in an international court.

This will be the first time that MEPs on the environment committee formally debate the draft directive, which they are scheduled to vote on in April. The Parliament faces another GM-related decision after national experts decided on Tuesday (22 February) that it was acceptable for imported animal feed to contain up to 0.1% of GM material.