Europe's fight with BSE may lead to new food scare
Story by Elizabeth Piper
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
UK: 30November - European measures to combat the spread of mad cow disease could open the gates to a new food scare if genetically-modified soymeal replaces ground carcasses in animal feed, UK environmentalists said yesterday.
A ban by the European Union (EU) on all meat and bone meal in animal feed blamed for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle has sparked panic buying of soymeal and may force food producers to turn to GM versions.
"We're just replacing one set of questions with another set of questions," Andy Tait, a campaigner at environmental group Greenpeace, told Reuters. "Nobody has any idea what the long term impact of feeding GM soymeal to animals will be, rather like no one had any idea what the long term impact of feeding meat and bone meal to animals would be. It's a risk we really cannot afford to take again."
European officials have said the ban would force producers to source a shortfall of between 2.15 to 2.2 million tonnes of soybean meal from the US, where GM crops are widely planted. More than 90 percent of Argentina's soy crop, the world's third largest, is of the genetically-modified Roundup Ready variety, traders in Buenos Aires said earlier this month. A slew of food safety scares has turned public opinion against GM crops, despite government reassurances on their
safety, with many consumers calling for clear labelling of meat from animals fed with gene-modified meal.
"We would appeal to companies when they are sourcing soya, to actually source non-GM soya. There is a bulk quantity of non-GM soya available and it's extremely important they source segregated non-GM soya for their meat," Tait said, adding that much US soymeal is unsegregated.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth said a move to genetically modified feed proved countries had yet to learn the "BSE lesson".
"We should learn from the BSE crisis and stop messing around with the food we feed to both animals and human beings," Adrian Bebb, a campaigner from Friends of the Earth, said. He said UK supermarkets and food manufacturers had begun to listen to the public's demand for non-GM meat. In a recent poll, 63 percent of Britain's shoppers said they wanted supermarkets to drop GM ingredients from animal feed. "Supermarkets and food manufacturers have listened and are now promising to do just this," Bebb said. "It would be outrageous if as a result of BSE even more GM food was imported into this country."