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Debates
Monday, 14 December 2009 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Crisis in agricultural sectors other than the dairy sector (debate)
MPphoto
 

  John Stuart Agnew (EFD). – Madam President, it looks as though I have temporarily joined Mrs Harkin’s fan club by drawing your attention to the underlying crisis in the livestock feed market with reference to minute traces of GM material that might be found in a 60 000-tonne cargo of soya beans.

If these traces are not from an EU-authorised variety, the cargo is not allowed to unload. The cost to the shipper in such an instance amounts to GBP 2.3 million, but there is also severe disruption down the line with lorries returning empty to feed mills who then have the problem of sourcing alternative protein at very short notice.

After immense pressure on this subject, the EU Commission has approved four more varieties of GM maize that they regard as a safe contaminant. It can take several years for such approval to take place whilst, meanwhile, new GM maize varieties are being adopted by farms in America all the time. This problem will resurface again within a year or so.

At present there are also several GM flax and cotton products which can easily be inadvertently mixed in trace amounts amongst a large cargo of soya, and they will also cause a shipment to be refused.

It is perverse that, whilst there are small tolerances allowed for stones, soil, dead insects, metal filings and wood chips, there is no tolerance whatsoever for a single wholesome grain of maize.

The uncertainty that this zero-tolerance policy creates has resulted in steeply increased insurance premiums for shippers that get passed on to the livestock producer – to say nothing of the angst generated when a producer is informed that his feed order cannot be fulfilled.

This is a most unsatisfactory situation and creates an unnecessary crisis in the production of meat and eggs. I urge the Commission to approach this whole issue in a more practical and sensible fashion by bringing in a tolerance level for GM admixture similar to that for other contaminants.

 
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