| Posted August
22, 2003: Editor’s note: New Farm™
was just recently made aware of the May 16 Greenpeace
release but we believe that the information is still relevant
and will be or interest to our readers. Further, please
note that this editor was not able to find report and
there fore could not verify the claims of this article.
BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 16, 2003: A secret EU study
leaked to Greenpeace states that all farmers would face
high additional, in some cases unsustainable costs of
production if genetically engineered (GE) crops were
commercially grown in a large scale in Europe. The study
predicts that the situation would become particularly
critical for organic farming of oilseed rape as well
as for intensive production of conventional maize.
The EU Commission ordered the study on the co-existence
of GE and non-GE crops in May 2000 from the Institute
for Prospective Technological Studies, of the EU Joint
Research Centre. The study was delivered to the EU Commission
in January 2002 with the recommendation that it not
be made public.(1)
"The European Commission has tried to keep this
study secret", said Lorenzo Consoli, Greenpeace
EU policy advisor, "because it was afraid of its
political implications. The question is, if the introduction
of GE crops on a commercial scale in Europe increases
costs of production for all farmers, makes them more
dependent on the big seed companies, and requires complicated
and costly measures to avoid contamination, why should
we accept GE cultivation in the first place?"
The EU study states that in oilseed rape production
the co-existence of GE and non-GE crops in a same region,
even when "technically possible", would be
"economically difficult" because of the additional
costs and complexity of changes required in farming
practices in order to avoid genetic contamination. Both
organic and conventional farmers "would probably
be forced to stop saving seed and instead buy certified
seed", because of the increased risk of GE impurity
for seeds that have been exposed to field contamination.
The study predicts that smaller farms would face relatively
higher costs compared to larger entities, and that cultivation
of GE and non-GE crops in the same farm "might
be an unrealistic scenario, even for larger farms".
The main specific findings of the report were:
. Commercialization of GE oilseed rape and maize and
to a lesser extent potatoes will increase costs of farming
for conventional and organic farmers at a range between
10 and 41 per cent of farm prices for oilseed rape and
between one and nine percent for maize and potatoes.
. Coexistence of GE farming and organic farming would
be actually impossible in many cases.
. Generally, coexistence would only be possible with
massive changes in farming practices, especially for
conventional farmers; it would also require cooperation
between farmers in a region and the willingness of all
farmers concerned to participate in such cooperative
ventures; it is not clear who would implement these
changes, who would be responsible for controlling their
correct implementation, who would shoulder their costs.
. Seed and crop purity from GE at a detection level
of 0.1 percent would be virtually impossible in most
cases, i.e. all products and seeds of oilseed rape and
maize would be contaminated with GE to a certain extent.
The study, based on a combination of computer modeling
and expert opinion, analyzed the consequences of an
increase in the share of GE crops. It focused on the
three crops of which GE varieties are currently available:
oilseed rape for seed production, maize for feed production
and potatoes for consumption. The study covered several
farm types, both organic and conventional farming. It
also considered three different threshold levels for
genetic contamination: 0.1 percent (analytical detection
level) for all the three crops, 0.3 percent for oilseed
rape and 1 percent for maize and potatoes.
(1) In a letter to the Comission accompanying the study,
the Director General of the EU Joint Research Centre,
Barry McSweeney, suggests that "(.) given the sensitivity
of the issue, I would suggest that the report be kept
for internal use within the Commission only."