Row over GM animal feed continues
EXTRACTED COMMENT: GM-free feed is widely used in Europe. For example, Switzerland uses no GM feed whatsoever; Sweden's feed is 90% GM-free, and France imports around 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of Non-GM soya annually, equivalent to Ireland's total soy feed imports for 2007!
Irish are 'hiding true colours'
Irish Examiner (Farming), 5 November 2009:
Ireland is one of the countries making a comedy out of running agriculture in the EU, according to outgoing commissioner for agriculture and rural development Mariann Fischer Boel.
[Fischer Boel did not mention Ireland in her speech. The majority of 19 EU member states usually abstains or votes against new GM approvals. A small minority of 8 governments still votes in favour (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Spain,Sweden, and the UK)]
She said she sometimes feels as if she were part of a television comedy, except that there is absolutely nothing to laugh about.
She was referring to agriculture ministers "hiding their true colours and abstaining from voting" - thus delaying decisions on approval of genetically modified (GM) crops for import to the EU.
Ireland has abstained in a number of votes on GM imports, since the present Government took office in 2007.
As a result of abstentions, the EU council of agriculture ministers has been unable to reach either a positive or a negative verdict on the imports.
One of the consequences has been an effective shut down of crucial soy bean imports from the US, leading to higher feed prices for EU livestock farmers, said Fischer Boel.
[Most of Europe's imported soy feed does not come from the USA, but from Brazil, where at least 45% of this year's soy harvest is Non-GM and where the previous years' trend of increased GM plantings has come to a virtual standstill.
GM-free feed is widely used in Europe. For example, Switzerland uses no GM feed whatsoever; Sweden's feed is 90% GM-free, and France imports around 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of Non-GM soya annually, equivalent to Ireland's total soy feed imports for 2007! The premium varies from â‚¬25 to â‚¬32 depending on the season. Farmers recoup the premium with GM-fee labels and higher prices for Non-GM food now on offer from dozens of leading retailers and hundreds of leading food brands in Europe - and from thousands of them in the USA.] ]
"We are currently using one hand to shoot ourselves in the foot by uncessessarily increasing production costs whilst the other hand is trying to stop the bleeding with cool cash," she added.
Her cash reference was to the â‚¬280 million injected by the commission to help dairy farmers having trouble covering production costs when selling their milk.
The aid was requested by the European Parliament, and by 21 of the EU's 27 agriculture ministers - including Ireland's Brendan Smith.
But when it comes to GM imports, these ministers simply choose to have no opinion, this [sic] delaying decisions, said Fischer Boel, who asked how much money and competitiveness EU farmers will lose while "we are playing slow-motion political ping-pong." With her retirement only weeks away, and Ireland having said Yes to Lisbon, Fischer Boel has been refreshingly honest about how stupid and slow EU decision making can be.
She said: "It's bad enough to abstain in the vote on a product authorisation which could make it so much easier to keep feed costs down, when the scientific evidence is clear. But does it make sense to do this and then ask later for export refunds for meat products, because your farmers can't cope with high feed prices?"
[Fischer Boel is referring to the scientific opinon of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which has been widely condemned, and also castigated by the Council of Ministers, for its farcical approval of GM products based on secret risk assessment dossiers provided by the applicant companies, without any possibility of independent scientific peer review, and without consideration of the environmental and social impacts of GMOs, nor the views of independent scientists and member states.
If any scientific clarity on the subject of GMOs exists, it points to their dangers. Numerous peer-reviewed papers have warned of the health and environmental risks of GM food and farming, backed by prestigious organisations including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Consumers International, the Center for Food Safety (USA), the Union of Concerned Scientists (USA), CRIIGEN - Committee for Independent information and Research on Genetic Engineering (France), EcoNexus (UK), GeneWatch (UK), the Independent Science Panel (UK), the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (New Zealand) etc. For details see http://www.gmfreeireland.org/health/studies.php]
In 2002, the EU Joint Research Centre tried to suppress the publication of its own report which found that GM contamination is almost impossible to avoid and would cause higher production costs (up to 40% for oilseed rape) for EU farmers. The Irishman Barry McSweeny, who was responsible for the attempted cover-up as head of the organisation at the time, was subsequently ousted after it emerged he had a fake PhD!
"Let's end this ludicrous situation."
The blocked soy bean imports which frustrated her come from the US, where they are tested for the presence of the GMOs not yet authorised by EU agriculture ministers.
[The USA approves GMOs based on unsubstantiated safety claims made by the applicant companies - with no due diligence or oversight.]
But when the cargo arrives in Europe, local testing methods sometimes found tiny traces of unauthorised GM maize (usually dust from a previous cargo in the ship). The traces are often smaller than what is commonly agreed to be the minimum level that can be reliably measured, namely, 0.1% of the cargo.
[The generally agreed minimum detection threshold is actually ten time lower, at 0.01 per cent.
Shipments of GM feed from the USA are often contaminated by much more than tiny traces of illegal GMOs. In 2005, 2,546 tonnes of illegal US GM maize entered the EU food chain through Greenore port in Ireland. In an attempt to cover-up the scandal, the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food issued a press release which referred to the illegal Bt10 shipment as a "sample", failing to disclose the fact that it was big enough to fill over 85 lorries and feed over six million cattle and sheep: http://www.gmfreeireland.org/scandal/index.php.
In 2007, 5,131 tonnes of US animal feed contaminated by illegal varieties entered the entered the EU food chain through Dublin port. Although the importer R&H Hall claimed the cargo was GM-free, certified laboratory analysis showed 2.4% contamination for the then illegal GM Herculex maize, 20% contamination with Monsanto's GM maize MON863, as well as contamination by GM maize gluten: http://www.gmfreeireland.org/pakrac/index.php]
But traders can't afford to risk their shipments being blocked, and they're talking of halting imports from the US altogether, which would be very bad news for the EU livestock sector.
Fischer Boel simply wants ministers to push ahead with how to deal with very small unwanted traces of GMOs found in shipments - without ending the EU policy of zero tolerance.
[Allowing such contamination would, by definition, end the zero tolerance food safety policy!]
Surely that is not too much to ask of the agriculture minister, when they are faced with the ultimate threat, voiced by the commissioner, of letting the EU livestock sector go to the wall.
[The US Government and the animal feed cartels have been making the same scaremongering claims for years! But on 29 October, Monsanto admited that this much-hyped catastrophic "shortage" of legal GM feed continues to remain on the far side of an ever-receding 12 to 18 month horizon! (See article at http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2009/10/29/118496/39Feed-crisis-looming-without-faster-GM-approvals39.htm)]
If that happens, she said, the EU would end up importing meat from animals fed on GMOs over which the EU would have no control. "That would be the ultimate irony," she said.
[The ultimate irony is that the EU has been importing such meat for years!]
Refreshingly honest though her outburst has been, Fischer Boel has revealed her own agenda for getting more GM materials into the EU - which is a step too far for people like the Green Party. For them, Fischer Boel's request to ministers to vote on the basis of science, not prejudice, on authorising new GM products, is too much.
[It's not only the Greens, but the vast majority of citizens of EU member states and their Governments who oppose GM food and farming.]
The commissioner also wants to allow member states decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GM crops on their territory.
Such questions are of little consequence to struggling Irish farmers.
[Banning the cultivation of GM crops is very important for Irish farmers, since the ensuing contamination of conventional and organic crops would enable Monsanto and other GM patent holders to appropriate their ownership, demand patent royalties, and sue the contaminated farmers for patent infringement. Irish farm produce would then have to carry a GM label and would be unsellable in the EU market.]
All they ask is that the 27 ministers can work out how to deal with the dust from GM cargoes which is keeping soya bean meal out of the EU.
[Nonsense! European countries continue to import millions of tonnes of GM and Non-GM soya feed from countries Brazil and Argentina, which dont' grow or export any GM crops that are not approved for food or feed in Europe.]