| 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
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
. 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."