From leader to laggard
Europe risks becoming the world’s farming museum
Brussels, 28 January 2015 – “Europe was the cradle of GM invention but now risks becoming the world’s farming museum: we are lagging behind all other continents when it comes to GM crop cultivation, because our farmers are still being denied the freedom to choose which safe products to grow while EU researchers face protests and destruction of field trials”, said Beat Späth, Director of Agricultural Biotechnology at EuropaBio, commenting on the new annual report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
In 2014, GM cultivation in the EU decreased slightly mainly due to limited choice for farmers in the EU caused by a lack of product authorizations as well as to legally questionable and scientifically untenable national bans. Farmers in five EU countries (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania) planted 143,016 hectares of insect resistant biotech maize, which is still less than 1% of global GM crop production.
GMOs are already in our daily lives, as Europe benefits from this key enabling technology mainly indirectly through imports. “We pay with GM cotton bank notes and wear GM cotton clothes, and each year our farm animals eat an amount of GM soybeans roughly equivalent to the combined weight of all EU citizens, greatly reducing our environmental footprint and helping farmers achieve a better living”, added Späth.
Although 48 GM crops are already approved for import, the Commission has put further authorisations on hold, which is bad news for livestock farmers, given Europe’s import dependency on GM soybeans as the main protein source for farm animals. The biotech industry firmly believes that halting approvals and thus failing to support the EU’s own best science is the single most damaging element for growth, innovation, investment as well as consumer confidence and safety.
According to figures released today by ISAAA, in 2014, 18 million farmers planted 181.5 million hectaresof biotech crops in 28 countries, up from 175.2 million hectares in 27 countries in 2013. For comparison, these are more farmers than all EU farmers (ca 12 million), and they grow GMOs on an area much larger than the entire EU arable land (ca. 104 million hectares).
Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2014(ISAAA Brief 49-2014)
GM imports authorisations:
- European farmers’ organisation Copa-Cogeca, together with various actors from the food and feed supply chain warned that “any further delays by the EU Commission will result in a suicidal situation for European growth.”(2014)
- Time for the Commission to Authorize Safe GMO Imports, EuropaBio (January 2015)
- Trade in Agriculture Factsheet, EuropaBio (2013)
- Positive scientific opinions by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA on over 70 GM product dossiers.
- A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001 - 2010), European Commission, 2010: “Biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.”
- Planting the future: opportunities and challenges for using crop genetic improvement technologies for sustainable agriculture, EASAC – the European Academies Science Advisory Council (2013): “The scientific literature shows no compelling evidence to associate such crops […] with risks to the environment or with safety hazards for food and animal feed greater than might be expected from conventionally bred varieties of the same crop.”
- What people say about GMO safety, EuropaBio (2014)
- Infographic on the EU risk assessment; Brochure on product safety of GMOs, EuropaBio
EuropaBio is the European Association of BioIndustries. Our members are involved in research, development, testing, manufacturing and commercialisation of biotech products and processes in human and animal healthcare, diagnostics, bioinformatics, chemicals, crop protection, agriculture, food and environmental products and services. EuropaBio also counts a number of National Biotech Associations in its membership who in turn represent more than 1800 biotech SMEs.