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Hunger in Africa Blamed on Western Rejection of GM Food The Problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants



GM Study Adds to Pressure on Brussels
Jenny Wiggins
September 11 2008

A European Commission report that says foods made with genetically modified ingredients are safe to eat has prompted fresh calls for Europe to speed up GM crop approvals to counter soaring food prices <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f8b45556-4e97-11dd-ba7c-000077b07658.html> .

The Joint Research Centre, the European Union's scientific and technical research laboratory, released a study on the health impact of GM foods on Thursday. While admitting that "little is known about the potential long term health effects" of GM foods, it said foods put forward for regulatory approval to date had not had harmful effects. It also said GM crops approved in the EU were not found to have caused allergies such as skin reactions.

Robert Sturdy, a member of the European parliament who sits on the environmental and agricultural committees, said the report showed Europe needed to "move forward" on the GM debate.

"There must be proper scientific research. . . but once that's cleared, we should open the doors to GM crops." Europe has lagged behind in GM crop approvals and farmers are angry about paying high prices for non-GM feed.

Mr Sturdy said some countries had opposed GM crops for protectionist reasons. "The French in particular have used GM products as a trade-defence instrument to stop products coming in from outside the EU." He added that European policymakers were under increasing pressure to evaluate the health impact of GM consumption as the world's population increased, raising global demand for food.

However, Friends of the Earth, a British environmental group, said the report was "extremely disappointing" because it ignored controversy among the scientific community about the risk posed by GM organisms.

A group of 37 scientists told Stavros Dimas, the European environment commissioner, earlier this year there was "a lack of scientific consensus" on the safety of GM crops. They said different protocols for biosafety-related research had been used, making it difficult to compare GM crops.

The European Food Safety Authority has been discussing risk assessment methods with member states.

EuropeBio, a biotechnology industry group, said the JRC report would help to allay "misconceptions in the public" over the safety of GM foods. A majority of Europeans - about 58 per cent - are opposed to the use of GM organisms according to a Eurobarometer survey published by Brussels in March. But the survey also found people felt they "lacked information".

Marie-Christine Ribera, the director of Cogeca, the European farmers' group, said there was "an urgent need" for the EU to allow some GMOs in animal feed so it could be easily transported across countries without breaking regulations. "We've been asking for nearly 10 years now."

The EU has approved only one GM crop for commercial production in 10 years, amid concerns about the environmental consequences. EU members have struggled to agree a coherent policy, given that some countries, including France, Greece and Poland, have total bans on GM cultivation.

Copyright <http://www.ft.com/servicestools/help/copyright>  The Financial Times Limited 2008

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