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EU: GM feed restrictions needs reviewing

The EU's system for importing poultry and other livestock feeds made from genetically modified (GM) crops has been slammed as "fundamentally unbalanced and discriminatory".

It is reported that the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development chairman Neil Parish believes that this is the case. He has asked the European Commission to review its zero-tolerance regime on imported feed stuffs containing traces of GM soya or maize. With the power to veto or even dismiss the commission, the Parliament has emerged as an important ally for livestock farmers who have to pay more for feeds because of import restrictions.

Ireland hit the hardest
According to the Irish Examiner, Irish farmers are worst affected because they rely more on imports of animal feed than any other EU country, with more than 50% of animal feed ingredients imported.

Ironically, though, Ireland is one of the member states restricting feed imports. Their votes against GM animal feeds in EU committees such as the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health reflect 58% opposition to GM organisms among EU citizens. Parish reportedly stated that EU consumers are offered imported meats, 90% of which come from animals fed on GM crops, many of which are unapproved in the EU.

Livestock farmers in Europe have to compete against these imports without access to millions of tonnes of GM feeds from the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Non-approved GM contamination rejected
Parish pointed out that any container arriving in an EU port from these countries, with even a trace of non-approved GM contamination, may be sent back.

Meanwhile, farmers and feed millers in Ireland had to wait 34 months for Herculex maize to be approved for import into the EU — more than 50 varieties of GM feed await approval.

100% GM-free feed impossible
Parish has asked the commission to speed up its approval for new varieties of GM feed deemed safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). "It is a great irony that we import poultry, pig and beef meet from outside the EU from animals fed on products we deny our own farmers. This helps no one. Consumers have no idea whether their meat has been fed on GM, and farmers have to pay through the nose for feed," commented Parish.
"We also have to address the zero tolerance issue. I am not suggesting a free-for-all on GM, but we must ensure any threshold is fair and achievable for non-GM feed. With new varieties of GM soya being planted around the world, it will be virtually impossible to guarantee any shipment into the EU is truly GM-free. I doubt anyone will bother sending GM-free shipments to the EU as a result, and this will make non-GM feed even scarcer and more expensive for our farmers… If the EU does not take urgent action, we are in danger of exporting much of our industry outside of the EU," he concluded.

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