Europe needs genetically modified food, scientists say

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 Europe needs genetically modified food, scientists say

A delegation from Greenpeace demonstrates in front of the EU Commission building on December 9, 2010 © AFP/File John Thys

WASHINGTON – (AFP) – The European Union’s bid to keep genetically modified foods at bay risks causing economic ruin by forcing the EU to depend on the outside world for food, scientists said Thursday.

In a review paper published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, scientists in Britain and Spain said that well-intentioned EU policies have backfired, thwarting innovation and stifling the small farmers they aimed to protect.

“What has emerged is a fragmented, contradictory, and unworkable legislative framework that threatens economic disaster,” said the article.

Europe has endorsed a strategy that calls for separation of conventional and genetically engineered crops so as to offer consumers and farmers a choice.

But coupled with “haphazard implementation of these measures without coordination or a rational scientific basis,” it amounts to a de facto moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops such as maize, cotton, and soybean, the scientists said.

As a result, European nations are forced to import those products because they cannot be produced to sufficient capacity at home.

A similar dilemma was pointed out with pesticides.

“The EU has banned many pesticides, but approves the import of food products treated with banned chemicals,” said the article.

Efforts to suppress genetically engineered agriculture are “ideological rather than scientific,” and are leading to the increasing isolation of the European Union on the global scale, it said.

The solution is to embrace GE crops, base policies on science and remove inconsistencies around the cultivation and import of GE food, said researcher Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center in Spain.

“Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress, ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,” he said.


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