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Fischer Boel slams Irish stance on GM

The anti-GM stance taken by Ireland and other EU states has been lambasted by the EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

The commissioner warned that delays in approving new GM crop varieties were restricting access to vital protein sources, such as soya, and would cost farmers millions of euro in higher feed charges this winter.

Ms Fischer Boel called for decisions on GM crops to be based on scientific evaluation rather than political considerations. She described as "ludicrous" a situation where member states openly frustrated the authorisation process for new GM crops by abstaining in key votes, but later seek export refunds for animal products because of increased feed costs.

Ireland has abstained in a number of votes on new GM crops since the present Government took office in 2007.

While Ireland was not singled out for criticism by the commissioner, a source close to Ms Fischer Boel accused countries that abstained of "chickening out" of the debate.

Ms Fischer Boel insisted that the EU approach in assessing the risks posed by GM crops was based on science and she challenged detractors of the existing approval process to study it.

"If any GMO is shown to have adverse affects on human health, animal health or the environment, we will not authorise it. Look at the rules; it's there in black and white," she said.

The commissioner claimed that authorisations for new GM crops were usually delayed because of political considerations rather than genuine scientific reservations.

She pointed out that clearance for GM varieties is based on independent scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

However, the Commissioner said EFSA recommendations were being ignored by politicians from some member states.

"Month after month, GMOs receive a clean bill of health from EFSA but then get stuck because member states cannot get a qualified majority, in favour or against, when it comes to the proposal on authorisation."

Ms Fischer Boel said the delays in clearing crops for use would be "legitimate" if new scientific information was being put on the table.

However, she said this was not the case.

The crops are invariably passed for use by the commission but the current difficulties have disrupted trade.

The commissioner pointed out that since July this year, 12 shipments of US soya had been held up in European ports because minute traces of an unapproved GM maize variety had been found in them.

She said US feed exporters were now reluctant to ship soya to Europe and she warned that the EU livestock sector faced "disaster" should the trade be blocked.

Europe imports 32m tons of soya each year.

Availability this winter is coming under pressure due to drought in Argentina and increased demand from China.

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