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Brussels shake-up denies feed squeeze a solution

Published on 28 October, 2009, Last updated at 08:57 GMT

A change of the guard at Brussels is limiting headway in releasing the potentially "explosive" threat to Europe's feed supplies prompted by tough curbs on genetically modified foods.

The installation of a new European Commission line-up, after the mandate of the existing team runs out this weekend, will delay until next year any hope of Brussels relaxing a zero-tolerance policy on imported GM crops, the feed industry fears.

"We are not expecting anything in the next few months, while commissioners fit into their new portfolios," Alexander Döring, secretary general of the European Feed Manufacturers' Federation (Fefac), told

The delay leaves Europe without a clear solution to a "crisis" which could cost the food and livestock industry up to E5bn, and leaves farmers "in an extremely precarious position".

Shipments barred

Europe's ban on even small traces of GM crops has denied an estimated 180,000 tonnes of US soy entry to the region, with many further shipments shelved for fear of contamination being found.

Europe's feed manufacturers, which typically rely on imports for 80% of vegetable proteins, fear being left short of raw materials, so limiting their ability to supply farmers over winter, when many animals are brought indoors.

Although most farm ministers voted at an EU council meeting last week to permit imports of certain GM crops, their majority was not sufficient to carry the vote under European balloting procedures. The decision will now be taken by commissioners.

"This vote was helpful, but it will not resolve the problem," Mr Doring said.

Besides, with the EU forecasting 120 types of GM crops on the market by 2015, a broader measure was needed to ensure shipments were not caught out by contamination with an as-yet unauthorised variety.

Complex issue

While a commission spokesman did not comment on when Brussels was likely to discuss the issue, he stressed the complexity of tackling an issue which straddled food safety and environmental portfolios as well as agriculture.

"I do not think it will happen with this commission," he added.


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