Monday, October 17, 2005

Non-GM costs to rise, claims report

European food producers will face significantly higher costs over the next three years if staunch opposition to using GM ingredients continues, a study commissioned by Agricultural Biotechnology Europe (who have a particular stance) suggests. Up to now the cost of Europe's anti-GM stance has been minimal as the greater cost of producing non-GM ingredients has been pushed down the supply chain.

This will change, it is claimed, as the availability of guaranteed non-GM ingredients declines and the premium on non-GM supplies rises. A particular problem is the availability of non-GM soyabeans. Soyabeans are used in producing a wide range of processed foods (even biscuits) and over half the soyabeans planted across the globe are now GM. Brazil, the primary supplier of non-GM soya products to the EU, has now formally approved the planting of transgenic soyabean seeds (although they were already grown illegally) so the percentage is likely to grow.

The existing differential between GM and non-GM could double in the next one to three years. For example, producers of broiler feed are likely to find that the premium over transgenic varieties for soya meal and soya oil will rise from between 10 per cent and 13 per cent to as much as 25 per cent. Margarine producers, 70 per cent of whom currently support non-GM policies, would see a rise of 16 per cent over three years or €85m annually.

There is some dispute about whether GM crops are as cheap to produce as their supporters claim, so these figures may be exaggerated. Retailers and processors face a dilemma as consumers are resistant to GM ingredients but also resistant to price rises.

GM-free zone ruled illegal

The European Court of First Instance has ruled that Upper Austria is not allowed to declare itself a 'non-genetically modified' zone. The ban had been originally rejected by the Commission on the grounds that there was no scientific evidence to support it. This is the first time that the Court has ruled on a general regional prohibition of GM crops although there are many other areas in Europe that proclaim themselves to be GM free. The Commission stated that the decision was a clear pronouncement that the free movement of goods within the EU had to be respected, but Upper Austria is likely to fight on.

WTO panel ruling delayed

The WTO dispute panel ruling on the EU's alleged moratorium for new genetically modified products has been put off until after the WTO's Hong Kong ministerial in December. The cover story is scheduling reasons, but it is clearly an attempt to prevent this conflict spilling over into already difficult negotiations.

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