European Union production of GM corn fell last year as output of conventional maize soared to a record high

Production of the EU’s sole GMO authorised for cultivation has fallen (item 1 below) while the non-GM corn harvest has skyrocketed.

It’s unsurprising then that the GMO lobby has taken to desperate measures to force more GM crops into Europe’s fields. According to Corinne Lepage in item 2 below, the GMO lobby has succeeded in watering down the new GMO “opt-out” law so that it fails to protect countries that want to keep GM crops out. As well as being the former French minister of environment, Mme Lepage is also a lawyer.

1. EU's harvest of genetically-modified corn falls
2. New GMO Directive: Strengthening the biotech companies to the detriment of the legal framework, public health and the environment

1. EU's harvest of genetically-modified corn falls, 14 Jan 2015

European Union production of genetically modified corn fell last year, even as output of conventional maize soared to a record high – but there is no sign of imports of biotech products slackening off.

The EU produced just 131,478 tonnes of genetically modified corn last year, down 11.7% on the 2013 result, US Department of Agriculture foreign staff said.

The decline in the only biotech grain authorised for growing in the bloc contrasted with a jump of 15.1% to 74.0m tonnes in output of corn overall, despite a small drop in sowings.

For GM corn, area fell by 300,000 hectares to 9,550 hectares, meaning it accounted for less than 1% of the bloc's total maize acreage.

'Major importer of GM'

The area decline reflected in the main a fall in popularity in Spain, which grows more than 90% of the EU's genetically modified corn, of which only one variety is permitted for growing in the bloc - a Monsanto variety resistant to the European corn borer, an insect pest.

Only four other EU countries now grow GM corn, in small amounts – Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, after Polish farmers quit in 2012, and French and German growers in the late 2000s.

However, the European Union remains a "major importer of genetically engineered soybean and corn products", the USDA staff said in a report, adding that these biotech imports were "mainly used as a feed ingredient in the livestock and poultry sectors.

"The EU is protein deficient and does not produce enough [vegetable protein] to meet demand."

'Difficult to find alternatives'

Indeed, for the main genetically modified feed import, soymeal, only 20% of the bloc's consumption is estimated as non-biotech, the report said.

Non-biotech soymeal is required by areas such as the organic sector, and food groups labelling their products as GM-free.

However, as genetically engineered crops account for an increasing area of production, "it is increasingly difficult for European importers to source non-biotech products", the USDA staff said.

"Their availability is declining and their prices are on the rise."

Home production plan

The report quoted last year's withdrawal by ZDG, the German poultry farmers association, of a 14-year commitment to use non-biotech feed, although the group has reportedly mulled reinstating its pledge.

Meanwhile, France has attempted to boost its own production of, non-GM, protein crops, to reduce its reliance on imports.

Under a seven-year "protein plan" unveiled last month, French farmers will be granted E100-200 per hectare to grow the likes of field peas, fava beans and soybeans, to reverse a decline which has seen their cultivation drop to less than 2% of field crop area.

French production of protein crops has, since peaking at 3.32m tonnes in 1992, dropped by 78% to less than 750,000 tonnes.

2. New GMO Directive: Strengthening the biotech companies to the detriment of the legal framework, public health and the environment

CRIIGEN press release, 15 Jan 2015
[Rough translation into English by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]

The new GMO directive GMO passed by Parliament opens the floodgates of GMO authorizations, without actually strengthening the power of the member states, and also assigns a monopoly of expertise to EFSA which is unacceptable, given the infiltration of lobbyists within the health agency.

This Tuesday, 13 January 2015, the European Parliament adopted a new Directive that fundamentally changes the game for marketing and cultivation of GMOs in Europe at the expense of legal, health and environmental security. This new European text on "renationalisation of GMO authorization procedures" was meant to be more stringent and aimed, among other things, to "facilitate" national bans on GMO crops. The biotech lobby, with the support of some pro-GMO member states in the European Council (UK, Netherlands, Spain ...), still managed to impose its will to introduce more GMOs in Europe. The new directive now gives more power to businesses, working in partnership with the member states with which the authorizations must be negotiated, while facilitating the process of marketing and cultivation of new GMOs.

CRIIGEN can only note that the health assessment at the European level has not been strengthened, in particular with regard to promoting the development of a transparent counter-expertise to EFSA, which is now positioned as the only "guarantor" of public health. We deeply regret that the new directive prohibits Member States from making their decisions based on their own analysis of the health and environmental risks, to support any legal prohibitions on their territory. For the past sixteen years CRIIGEN has denounced the inadequate assessment of GMOs and their associated pesticides, especially since 2012 the long-term effects associated with chronic exposure, both for agricultural professionals and their families, and for consumers. According to Professor GE Séralini, who was recently invited by the European Parliament to speak on the subject: “Lobbies at work within EFSA, among experts who have neglected the results of our two-year study, continue to undermine public health while monopolizing expertise.”

Corinne Lepage, Honorary President of CRIIGEN and former Vice-President of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament, said, “This new directive has completely erased the text voted on in the first reading by the European Parliament, which was based on the recommendations of a report that I had proposed. The first text had constituted a considerable step forward to strict regulation of GMOs, allowing them to be banned due to insufficient studies, or giving the power to the regions to declare a moratorium. It made the GMO directive into a piece of environmental legislation and not about the internal market. Ultimately, this [new] text not only opens the floodgates of GMO approvals in Europe, but contrary to what has been declared, it will not allow the legal security for member states that want to prohibit GMOs on their territory. Unfortunately, once again the European institutions have demonstrated that the wishes of European consumers are not worthy to be taken into account, and also that the issue of democracy has no meaning for them.”

In addition, Dr Joel Spiroux de Vendômois, Chairman of CRIIGEN, said: "It is sad that the majority of MEPs have forgotten that GMOs are pesticide plants. European citizens in turn will pay a heavy price in terms of health due to the underestimated impact of GMOs and pesticides, as we have shown."