Feed Shortage Ahead for EU Farmers

EU - The Commissioner has warned agriculture ministers that disputes over genetically modified (GM) crops between Member States will cause imminent feed shortages.
calendar icon 8 September 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Farmers face an imminent shortage of animal feed because a handful of countries are blocking the approval of GM crops, warns the European Union's Agriculture Commissioner.

Financial Times reports that Mariann Fischer Boel told agriculture ministers that breaking a log-jam of GM organisms applications would throw a lifeline to dairy and pig farmers who face high prices for non-GM feed.

Farmers' group, Copa-Cogeca, estimates that non-GM feed will add almost €1 billion to the cost of raising livestock this year.

The EU imports nearly two-thirds of the 33.5 million tonnes of the soybean meal used by the food and livestock industry annually.

Some 200,000 tonnes of US soybeans have been blocked at EU ports this year because they contained trace amounts of two varieties of GM maize that have been declared safe by EFSA but have not yet been approved by member states.

The situation has been exacerbated this year by a drought in Argentina, one of the EU's largest suppliers, which has hit soybean output.

Financial Times reports that the UK and the Netherlands – supporters of GMOs – were among a group of eight member states that expressed support for Ms Fischer Boel's remarks, according to a person involved in the discussions. Austria, a GM opponent, and Poland expressed scepticism.

Opposition from a handful of EU member states has repeatedly stalled the final approval of GM products that have otherwise been cleared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Commission says continued resistance to GMOs could see European farmers lose market share to imported GM-fed meat.

"The worst case scenario is that eventually it becomes so expensive to import protein that our own guys go out of business and we end up importing meat from countries fed on the same GMOs not approved for use here," a Commission official said.

Ms Fischer Boel's comments came as dairy farmers rallied in Brussels, demanding more support amid a prolonged slump in milk prices. France and other countries have also repeatedly asked for financial aid for pork producers, arguing that they are suffering from low prices.

The Financial Times report concludes that Commission officials have indicated that they are unable to provide more financial assistance after directing billions of euros in aid to the sector through emergency payments and market interventions.

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