Fewer GM Crop Trials in Europe

*Due to rigid rules says industry; others say because of choice and sense

EU data shows that fewer GM trials were submitted for authorisation this year compared with the last couple of years.

Only Spain grows GM commercially, allowing trials of more GM crops than any other European country. Of the 41 applications for GM trials up to May, 30 were for trials in Spain. The other applications were for trials in Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Two thirds of applications came from big biotechnology companies such as BASF and Bayer for trials of herbicide and pest resistant crops that are already grown in other parts of the world. Only 11 of the trials are to test new plant traits and trait innovations.

Companies let taxpayers take burden of funding GM research

This highlights that the so called "new generation" of GM crops supposed to feed the world, deliver third world farmers from draught and sort out the world's nutritional problems still mainly exist in press releases and are some way from real development.

A third of the trial authorisations have been proposed by universities and public research bodies. This figure is may well increase in the future with companies saving their money as the EU and the UK press ahead with committing public, taxpayer funds to the GM projects businesses and the market steers clear of.

In Britain there are currently three field trials: two on potatoes and one on wheat. Another potato trial is being proposed in Ireland. All these trials have whipped up controversy. Trials in other parts of Europe have also met strong opposition.

As a response to the protests, GM giant, BASF have relocated their research department to the United States, to take advantage of relaxed regulation and a pro-GM Congress.

But the US might not prove to be such a safe haven as concern about the technology is growing there; with protests about unlabelled GM food, legal actions against GM contamination and increasing opposition to corporate control of agriculture and the food system.

More robust regulation is called for

Others countries, like China and India, are considering more robust authorisation regimes.

In the EU, the authorisation system operated by European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) continues to be widely criticised.

Recently adverse attention has been drawn to the close links EFSA officials and advisors have with the industry. Dissatisfaction has led to the European Parliament refusing to sign off EFSA’s financial statement.

There have been numerous calls for EFAS to bring in independent, scientific advice from sources not linked to industry; to involve a full range of scientific disciplines including an adequate complement of toxicologists on its GMO advisory panel; to accept only independent and transparently reviewed scientific dossiers based on full disclosure of all trial results rather than just the company selected ones; to    stop refusing to use the latest molecular profiling methods, and to end the use of the prejudicial and unscientific notion that GM crops are “substantially equivalent” to non-GM crops.

The GM industry and researchers say such things are too rigid whilst others argue that it is just sensible regulatory oversight of an industry that can cause large scale and unredeemable contamination.