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Questions on GM in agriculture & food

GM crops around the world

GM crops and developing countries

Regulation of GM in Europe


Questions on GM in agriculture & food

Why are GM crops grown? (top)

Agricultural Biotechnology has the potential to produce crops that have higher yields than their conventional counterparts or crops that use less pesticides and fertilizers and that are more resistant to diseases - or weeds. Some new varieties produced with the help of biotechnology could survive better in dry soils or could, for example, tolerate frosts.

Why are GM foods produced? (top)

GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both.

May GM be harmful to human health? (top)

More than 25,000 field trials have been conducted on more than 60 crops in 45 countries, and scientists have detected no long-term effects on consumers, animals or the environment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has responded that “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved”. To consult the WHO’s 20 questions on genetically modified foods see: www.who.int

What are the environmental concerns with GM crops? (top)

Anti-GM activists are questioning the feasibility of “co-existence” between GM crops and non-GM crops and the possible transfer genes. Cross-pollination is a normal process between sexually compatible plants and the fact that a GM crop may transfer genes to other plants does not mean that there will be an adverse effect on the environment. Successful co-existence of different agricultural production systems requires risk assessment process through field scale trial and both GM and non GM growers implementing appropriate management practices.


GM crops around the world

How widespread are GM crops around the world? (top)

The estimated global area of approved biotech crops for 2004 was 81.0 million hectares, equivalent to 200 million acres, up from 67.7 million hectares or 167 million acres in 2003. Biotech crops were grown by approximately 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries in 2004, up from 7 million farmers in 18 countries in 2003. Notably, 90% of the beneficiary farmers were resource-poor farmers from developing countries.

And in Europe? (top)

Spain, the only EU country to grow a significant hectarage of a commercial biotech crop, increased its Bt maize area by over 80% from 32,000 hectares in 2003 to 58,000 hectares in 2004, equivalent to 12% of the national maize crop. In Eastern Europe, Romania also reported significant growth with more than 50,000 hectares of biotech soybean and Germany continued to grow a token area of Bt maize.


GM crops and developing countries

Can GM feed the world ? (top)

“Biotechnology continues to be the most rapidly adopted technology in agricultural history due to the social and economic benefits the crops offer farmers and society, particularly the 5 million resource-poor farmers in developing countries. Biotech crops can significantly alter the lives of these farmers, limiting the time they must spend in the field and helping alleviate poverty” (ISAAA, 2003).

The world's population is expected to increase to 8 billion by the year 2020, and the demand for food is estimated to double by then; GM technology can help combat world food shortages and improving sustainable development of agriculture in developing countries’ through, for example, growing crops in previously unusable soils, such as those with a high salt content.


Regulation of GM in Europe

What is the current legislation in the EU on GMOs? (top)

EU legislation on GMOs has been in place since the early 1990s and throughout the decade, this regulatory framework has been further extended and refined.

On April 18th 2004 new rules on labelling and traceability came into effect throughout the EU. Under the new Regulations, food and feed that contain or consist of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or contain ingredients produced from GMOs, must be clearly labelled as GM.

What is the impact of the EU regulation for consumers? (top)

EU Regulations provide for stringent labelling provisions, requiring GMOs and products derived from them to be labelled at all stages of the placing of them on the market. GM products and ingredients will be traced through all stages of the production and distribution; consumers will have the choice to purchase either organic, conventional or GM products.

When consumers go shopping, they can identify all products containing an authorised GMO. They bear a label mentioning: “This products contains genetically modified organisms” or “... is produced from genetically modified (name of organism)” with name of the ingredient concerned. The information needs to be clearly stated on the packaging.

How GMOs are approved in Europe? (top)

Clear rules are already set out in the EU for the assessment and authorisation of GMOs and GM-food.

The European Food Safety Authority is responsible for the scientific risk assessment. On the basis of the opinion of the European Food Authority, the Commission drafts a proposal for granting or refusing authorisation. The proposal will, as it is currently the case, be approved through qualified majority of the Member States within a Regulatory Committee.  Authorisations is granted for a period of 10 years and renewable for 10-year periods.


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