Trade Talk

Guest post by Zuzana Stratilová from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic in cooperation with Biotrin.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their use, especially in agriculture and food industry, remain a controversial topic in the EU. Opinions of different member states are highly polarized. On the one hand, there are member states which support applications of new biotechnologies incl. GMOs, on the other hand, we have some member states which condemn these technologies for various reasons. In most cases, these member states prefer public opinion and political interests to scientific findings.

Consequently, in the approval procedure of placing new GMO on the EU market, contradictions occur in positions of individual EU member states. The result of this disharmony is impossibility of reaching a qualified majority in favour or against the authorisation of a new GMO, and the (already very long) approval procedure becomes much more time consuming.

Until March 2015, only 50 types of GMO have been approved for the EU market (29 types of maize, 8 cotton, 7 soybean, 3 oilseed rape, 1 sugar beet, 1 bacteria and 1 yeast). This creates a deep gap between the EU and the rest of the world, where over 370 types of GMOs have been approved until now.

It becomes more and more difficult and costly to ensure 100% pure conventional delivery of plant commodities without any GMO traces or even conventional feed free from any admixtures of GMO not authorised in the EU.

This worldwide non-coordinated way of approvals bears some risks with it, especially for importers into the EU. It becomes more and more difficult and costly to ensure 100% pure conventional delivery of plant commodities without any GMO traces or even conventional feed free from any admixtures of GMO not authorised in the EU.

Moreover, it took the European Commission one year and a half to finish the approval procedure of 17 applications, although all conditions were met. Thus a paradox situation occurs. On the one hand, such behaviour undermines credibility of regulating institutions in the EU, on the other hand, the EU itself delimitates imports of GM feed, on which it relies. We have to add, that especially imports of GM soybean reduce negative impacts of long-lasting protein crisis in the EU.

Imports of GM soybean reduce negative impacts of long-lasting protein crisis in the EU.

The situation in the Czech Republic depends on the European policy and common EU rules. Nowadays, there is a possibility for using feed derived from animals for feeding fish and a similar proposal exists for pigs and poultry. Nevertheless, the conditions and strict measures for using it pose such a huge burden for processors, that they still prefer soybean and other crops rich in proteins.

Last year, 478.000 tons of protein feed were imported into the Czech Republic. The biggest amount was represented by soybean and soybean meal – 414.000 tons; there were also 48.000 tons of oilseed rape meal imported. On the other hand, the Czech Republic exported 297.000 tons of similar commodities – the biggest amount constituted of oilseed rape (237.000 tons), followed by sunflower (31.000 tons) and only 14.000 tons of soybean. The Czech production of protein crops therefore lags remarkably behind the demand.

The Czech Republic, similar as the other member states of the EU, depends on feed derived from crops rich in protein. That is the reason why we cannot oppose the GMO issue.

The most important commodity for the feed sector is without any doubts soybean, which is imported especially from the USA, Argentina and Brazil. The share of GM on the entire soybean production in those countries exceeds 90 %.

The Czech Republic is not a common entrance place for feed imports into the EU, thus it is quite difficult to distinguish between GM and conventional deliveries. The estimations say, that 100 % of imported soybean feed products and 50 % of imported maize feed products are GMO. On the EU level, the situation seems to be similar.

According to The European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC, 2013), conventional feed mixtures represent on the EU market less than 15 % of the whole amount (17 % in case of poultry, 9 % of cattle and only 2 % in case of pigs).

From the given information, we can conclude, that the Czech Republic, similar as the other member states of the EU, depends on feed derived from crops rich in protein. That is the reason why we cannot oppose the GMO issue. The Czech pragmatic approach in this issue is being welcomed especially by Czech non-governmental organisations representing food industry and feed importers and processors. These Czech organisations, similar to the European ones (COCERAL, FEDIOL a FEFAC), warn, that if we stop the new approvals of GM crops in the EU, there will be less feed imports into the EU followed by significant negative economic impacts. As a result of an inactivity of the European Commission in this case we can expect an increase in feed and consequently also food prices.

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