EU says farmers face extra costs to stay GM-free
BRUSSELS - Organic and conventional farmers will face extra costs keeping their produce \"GM-free\" once genetically modified crops become more common in Europe, the European Commission said last week.
But the European Union executive played down the significance of a new EU report, leaked ahead of publication by environmentalist group Greenpeace, which said some farmers could face a cost hike of up to 41 percent.
\"In order to keep GM and non-GM crops separate would induce certain costs...(but) there are solutions to these problems,\" EU agriculture spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber told a news briefing.
\"It does not by any means mean that conventional or organic farmers have to go out of business because you use GM crops in Europe. This is the slant Greenpeace has given and it is not supported by this study or other studies.\"
A draft of the report by the EU\'s Joint Research Centre and posted on Greenpeace\'s website, estimated that costs for rapeseed farmers could increase by between 10 and 41 percent.
The costs would be caused by measures such as changing planting patterns, creating buffer zones to avoid mixing GM and non-GM crops and extra insurance, it said.
Farmers of maize or potatoes would face cost increases of between one and nine percent, the report said.
A Commission spokesman confirmed that the document released by the environmental action group was genuine, but could be subject to modification.
AMMUNITION FOR ANTI-GM LOBBY
Greenpeace jumped on the report as another reason for keeping GM crops out of the EU. Only a handful of GM strains have been authorised in the region in the face of public resistance to what the press has dubbed \"Frankenstein food\".
\"If the introduction of GE (genetically engineered) crops on a commercial scale in Europe increases costs of production for all farmers...why should we accept GE cultivation in the first place,\" Greenpeace campaigner Lorenzo Consoli said.
The 15-country EU has had an informal ban on new GM strains since 1998 pending tough new measures on testing crops to ensure their safety and rules on labelling so consumers can, if they wish, choose GM-free food.
The legislation sets a maximum level for accidental GM content of non GM seeds and crops. Above that threshold, which is, for example, one percent for maize and potato crops, produce could no longer be considered \"GM-free\".
Mixing of GM and non-GM can occur when seeds or produce are transported and stored and through cross-pollination.
A report by the European Environment Agency in March found that oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize - three key GM crops - had a medium or high likelihood of cross-pollinating with other strains in neighbouring farm fields or with wild relatives.
Story by Robin Pomeroy
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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