Commission fudge on GM issue

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The long running saga of the EU Commission’s struggle to deal effectively with approvals for the use of feed materials from new genetically modified crops has taken a new and potentially disastrous turn for European food and feed producers.

For many years new genetically modified crops and their derivatives from the world’s main food producing countries seeking entry into the European market have undergone a rigorous risk assessment by the European Food Standards Agency. They would then come before a standing committee for approval by the politicians.

This approval was continually blocked however by a number of member states strongly opposed to genetic modification.

A prolonged process of committee sittings led to a default position whereby the commission would bypass the politicians and issue a market authorisation based on the scientific evidence and EFSA approval.

The latest proposals to resolve the approvals logjam would give national governments the power to decide whether to issue the market authorisations and would allow individual Member States to take a non-GM stance with regard to the use of feed and food materials.

Far from providing a solution to the problem, the major EU feed and food organisations believe that it is a betrayal of the principle of the single market and predict that it will lead to chaos. They are mounting a concerted campaign to resist these proposals as they could significantly impact the Internal Market for food and feed products, potentially causing disruption to trade, transport, processing and production with lower investment and higher costs in “opt-out” countries.

With the EU dependent on importing over 70% of its animal feed – in particular protein-rich materials which cannot be produced in Europe for climatic and agronomic reasons it is viewed by feed producers as not just an attack on free trade but on the intensive farming sector in particular.

Consequently, the EU food and feed chain partners are urging the European Parliament and Council to reject the Commission’s proposal. They argue that it should be the main priority of the commission to ensure that the current legislation is properly implemented instead of trying to change the present market authorisation procedure for political considerations.

The European Commission adopted the legislative proposal on April 22nd and it will now be transferred to European Parliament and Council for discussion and adoption. The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association is actively supporting the European Food and Feed Associations by lobbying relevant government departments and local MEPs.

Feed Prices Ease

The continued weakness in the global grain markets is expected to be reflected in local feed prices in the coming weeks. Protein prices remain firm however and while soya prices faltered a little with the expectation of good crops in South America the mid protein materials such as rapeseed and the corn by products are still relatively expensive.