EU suppresses study showing GE crops add high costs for all farmers and threaten organic

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.


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(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."