EU\'s Fischler calls for coherent gene food strategy
BRUSSELS - The EU\'s farm policy chief thhis week called for a common strategy on gene-modified foods that addressed consumers\' worries about health and the environment in a rational way.
\"Europe lacks a shared vision and common objective regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs),\" EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told the AGRIBEX food fair in Brussels.
\"Currently, our response is to the challenges of GMOs is \'muddling through\'. We have to stop making decisions on such a difficult issue of biotechnology on a purely emotional basis.\" Europe\'s policy makers have increased calls for a new approach to biotechnology amid fears that hostile public opinion to the sector may hinder economic growth and leave the European Union embroiled in another trade war with the United States, the world\'s major GM crop grower and exporter.
The EU has had a de facto moratorium on new GM crop approvals for almost four years and, despite tough new labelling and traceability proposals, there is still no sign of a quick restart to clearance procedures.
A hardline core of member states, led by France, is continuing to oppose new GM approvals - a situation the European Commission believes may be illegal and leave the bloc open to challenge at the World Trade Organisation.
\"It is high time Europe finds a way to address questions such as: Can we eat food that has been genetically modified? Do GMOs represent a threat to the environment?\" Fischler said.
The Commission\'s traceability plans, designed to allay member state fears and kick-start the approvals process, demand that GM crop imports from countries like the United States be labelled, entailing costly separation from conventional strains throughout the production chain.
U.S. farmer and industry groups have criticised the plans as unworkable and too expensive.
Fischler said the same criteria had to be applied to farms in Europe if the biotech industry was to win back public confidence already rocked by a series a food scares from mad cow disease to dioxin poisoning.
\"Labelling will be worthless if we do not manage to segregate GM and GM-free on the fields of European farmers.
\"Farms will have to segregate production and marketing chains, introduce minimum distances but also different sowing dates between GM and non-GM crop varieties.
\"Agriculture today is demand driven and we will not be able to sell our products if we do not win the confidence of the consumers,\" Fischler said.
Story by David Evans
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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