(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2010) The European Union (EU) standing committee on Tuesday decided to allow a 0.1 percent contamination threshold for unauthorized Genetically Engineered (GE) products in animal feed imports that would change the bloc’s zero-tolerance attitude toward biotech food. The EU Commission and Parliament are expected to accept the rule by this summer. If the vote is allowed through by the European Parliament and Council, those shipments could contain GE seeds that are authorized in their home country but may not even have been tested in Europe.
Greenpeace spokesperson Stefanie Hundsdorfer warned that the new rules are possibly the first of many concessions to come.
“Setting a tolerance threshold, however low, is a sign that Europe is losing control over its own food production to please American exporters,” said Ms. Hundsdorfer. “The danger now is that EU countries come under pressure from the pro-GE lobby to also allow GE contamination in food products for direct human consumption.”
According to industry, exporting states and the European Commission say the new concession is necessary to prevent supply disruptions, because the EU’s feed industry relies on imports for 80% of its needs, and the world’s largest suppliersâ€”Argentina, the United States and Brazilâ€”are all widespread cultivators of GE crops.
United States, Brazil, and Argentina, are the three top GE crop growing countries and all had more than one million hectares in production according to the recent figures in the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) report. Furthermore, for the second consecutive year, Brazil had the worldâ€™s largest year-over-year increase in absolute biotech crop plantings, adding four million hectares in 2010 â€” a 19 percent increase â€” to grow a total of 25.4 million hectares. However, the United States leads Brazil in total cropland devoted to biotech crops. Moreover, the U.S. might overtake Brazilâ€™s position on the year-over-year increase in biotech crop planting this upcoming year due to the recent decision from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the U.S. sugar beet industry to continue growing Monsantoâ€™s â€śRoundup Readyâ€ť GE sugar beets and the recent decision to deregulate GE alfalfa seed. The decision was made despite the risks it poses to both organic and conventional farmers.
On February 7, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Sierra Club and Cornucopia Institute formally filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency concerning its decision to allow unrestricted deregulation of GE alfalfa.
Center for Food Safetyâ€™s senior attorney and counsel for the lawsuit to be filed against the USDA regarding GE alfalfa and past lawsuit regarding GE sugarbeets, George Kimbrell, is scheduled to speak at Beyond Pesticidesâ€™ 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Community – Practical solutions for health and the environment April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Among other cases, Mr. Kimbrell was counsel in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010), the first case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the impacts of GE crops.
Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. GE crops are already known to contaminate conventional non-GE and organic crops through â€śgenetic driftâ€ť and take a toll on the environment by increasing resistant insects and weeds, contaminating water and affecting pollinators and other non-target organisms. Beyond Pesticidesâ€™ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems.
Photo Courtesy: Inside Ireland