Biotech in agriculture lives another day
16.12.2015 - People do plenty of moaning about the European Parliament, so let’s look at something good that it did in October, when it rejected an EC proposal for national GMO bans.
This isn't cultivation of GMOs – countries already have the right to ban those on pretty much any grounds, science and evidence having been chucked out the window along with rational thought. This is the right of countries to restrict or prohibit the sale and use of EU-approved GMO food or feed.
There are two key issues; firstly that European agriculture is hugely dependent on protein supplies from GM sources and secondly, you are effectively breaking up the European freedom to trade, which is the foundation upon which the European Union was created.
The first issue interests me most, as it highlights how little people understand about the global and complex nature of the food and feed chain and how much biotech drives food and feed production globally. Agriculture is fiercely cost-driven. Why do you think farmers spend half their time lamenting in Brussels? Big players in the food and feed chain are ruthless and the difference between earning enough to live and going bust is a cent on a litre of milk. To create your agricultural products, you need to be as competitive as possible and where animals are involved, this means buying in high quality feed at the lowest possible price. Europe does not produce enough protein to deliver its animal feed, and global production is dominated by GMOs. They allow cheaper and more efficient production of protein, so even if Europe did grow its own, it couldn't outcompete the GM-derived feeds on price because it starts from a more expensive production system.
Agricultural economists (and supermarkets) know what would happen to national production if a country could not use imported GM-derived animal feeds, cost of production would rocket and supermarkets would simply buy from the abundant supply of cheaper producers elsewhere. The public generally likes to buy cheap and the supermarkets will make sure they have plenty of that, whether your milk, cheese and pork (plus ingredients in any processed food) is from down the road or from China.
The Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the proposal based on the fact that it is almost unworkable from an implementation perspective and undermines European free trade, rather than for the catastrophic effect that it would have on any country fool enough to actually ban GM products, but we should take the result with a sigh of relief whatever the reason. It might look like a rural idyll as you watch cows grazing contentedly in the middle distance but it is a small window into an intensive global industry reliant on biotechnology-derived products and one that will happily buy its products elsewhere if the price is right.http://www.european-biotechnology-news.com/people/heard-in-brussels/2015/biotech-in-agriculture-lives-another-day.html