At the IEC London Conference, Peter van Horne, IEC's Economic Analyst, presented the results of a report from the LEI research Institute in the Netherlands, assessing the economic impact, now and in the future, of the current requirements for the EU to approve the use of GM crops. He focussed on soybeans and maize, as these form the main ingredients of layer feed for hens.
Van Horne began by discussing the worldwide increase in using GM crops, and used the US, Argentina and Brazil as examples; all 3 have been increasing their use of GM crops during recent years. In 2000, just over 50% of soybean plantings in the US were GM crops. By 2007, this had risen to over 90%. In 2000, less than 10% of Brazil’s soybean planting was GM, but this has been increasing rapidly, and by 2010 it is forecast to account for 80%. In comparison, Argentina has had a high level of GM crops since 2000, when over 80% of its soybean planting was GM, and figures had reached 100% by as early as 2006.
In 2007, over 70% of the USA’s maize crop was GM, compared to over 60% of Argentina’s and just 50% in Canada. Brazil is not yet using GM technology for its maize.
The LEI study shows that Europe is currently self-sufficient regarding maize; however, it imports soybean products from countries such as US, Argentina and Brazil. If the EU approval on new GMO varieties continues to be as slow and strict as it currently is, the future production chain for livestock farming, in particular the feed chain, will see a growing dependence on imports with higher feed costs. It is predicted that there will be an increase in imports of ready-to-go products, outside of the EU.
Van Horne discussed with the IEC delegates a study supported by the EU DG-AGRI, assessing the impact of GMOs in Europe. With no change in the EU policy, it predicts a growing deficit of soybean, and a rise in feed prices which, in turn, will lead to an increased price for pork and poultry.
As there is an increasing worldwide acceptance of GM crops, it will become increasingly difficult for the EU to continue to adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards non-approved GMO varieties.
Van Horne’s study concludes that one solution to this ongoing problem is that the EU needs to adopt an acceptable tolerance to allow non-improved varieties to be in shipments. On the other hand, the EU should decrease the time period to approve new GMO varieties.