The Genetically Modified (GM) feed debate rumbles on in the EU with a leaked report suggesting that individual countries will be able to opt out of any EU agreement to accept GM feed. The reason suggested is that it is “in the interest of democratic choice”, as the current legal framework “does not allow the individual concerns of Member States to be taken into account in a controversial area of great public interest.”

The report highlights that since the issue first came to the table in 2003, “there has never been a qualified majority amongst Member States in favour of or against a draft Commission Decision authorising GMOs and GM food & feed”, while the issues raised by countries that oppose authorisations “have usually nothing to do with science, but rather concern other aspects of the societal debate in their country”. The long-awaited Commission proposal to amend Regulation 1829/2003 – first floated when the new administration took office last Nov - is expected to be tabled next week.

Unsurprisingly this suggested position has met opposition from global trading partners. Ambassadors from the US, Canada, Argentina and Brazil, the large feed trading partners of the EU, have expressed “serious concerns” about Commission plans to reform approvals of (GM) imports. Their concern basically is that it would impact international trade of feed & food and spark trade disruptions. A grand coalition of 14 food and feed chain partners have called on the EU’s executive to reconsider its draft plans to renationalise the decision making process on GM. These include the farmer and processor representative bodies to which the IFA and Meat Industry Ireland are affiliated.

For Irish farmers the debate not only revolves around the rights or wrongs of GM in principle but availability of feed at a competitive price. The EU’s relies on imports for 75% of its animal feed and 90% of compound feed contains GMO materials. That leaves a very small quantity of non GM feed and with the basic laws of supply and demand likelihood is that it will be the more expensive option never mind availability. There is also a very strong view in the food industry that we can keep GM feed out of Europe at the price of exporting our food industry to countries that freely use GM feed. They will then export GM produced food to Europe on an even larger scale than at present.