Tag Archives: GM crops

Nineteen EU states want a total ban on the use of GM food technology; Arla makes a move in the right direction


As discerning Americans are opting for organically grown food and increasing such imports, the Board of Directors of European dairy co-operative Arla have noticed that prices for organic milk continue to hold up well and have now decided to cover the costs of farmer members conversion to GM free feed.

gm free feed

On the other hand, a report issued by America’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a private advisory body, though confirming that there have been no studies into the long-term human health impact of GM food consumption, assert that genetically modified food is safe for human consumption …

The European market is increasingly demanding dairy products from GM free fed cows and customers are willing to pay a price premium. Arla wants to meet this growing demand from the trans-European retailers.

arlaAccording to Chairman Åke Hantoft, Arla already owns the biggest organic milk pool in the world as Swedish farmers have always used GM free feed – so around 20% of Arla’s milk pool already meets this market demand. He wants to attract more farmers who are willing to convert to GM free feed because of the commercial potential – not because Arla’s owners are opposed to GM in principle.

Arla will compensate those farmers who convert to GM free feed and also those who opt for organic conversion:

“Our immediate demand is up to 1bn kg extra milk during the next 12 months and we expect to be able to pay an extra 1 eurocent per kg milk. The market driven compensation will also be paid to all our Swedish farmers, who already use GM free feed. We do not know exactly from when, but we are working fast to unfold the details,” says CEO Peder Tuborgh.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone further than this – they want a total ban the growing of GM crops, as do 19 EU states including Germany and France, but the current British government has indicated it is willing to consider allowing, this and meet the needs of already wealthy corporates.




Transatlantic trade and investment partnership trade talks (TTIP) ‘hit trouble’


In May, Dr Gabriel Siles-Brügge, based in Manchester, wrote: “The TTIP being currently negotiated between the EU and the US reflects:

  • the increasing intrusiveness of the trade regime,
  • a desire to bypass the increasing power of the emerging powers in the global trading system by negotiating bilaterally,
  • and the increasing prominence of civil society groups in trade discussions.

wyn grantWyn Grant, a political scientist in ‘good standing’ – an expert on the CAP and the political economy of the food chain, wrote earlier this year:

“The US-EU trade talks are running into trouble on a number of fronts, but predictably agriculture is proving to be a particularly difficult issue.

“The farm lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic are active and influential and the EU feels a need to respond to the concerns of its citizens on such subjects as GM crops and hormone-raised beef. For its part, the US sees this as protectionism under another guise.

“Food safety is an area where there is a particular gap with the EU sticking to the ‘precautionary principle’ which can justify intervention in the absence of much in the way of hard scientific evidence while the US has a more lenient ‘risk assessment model’ which only bans products if there is a known risk.

“The EU is about to approve a GM strain of corn/maize, but that is after a decade of debate and six scientific studies. It remains to be seen how much is actually planted.

“The fundamental problem is that the public in the two entities have different attitudes on issues of this kind and these are difficult to overcome, particularly when the EU is engaged in a constant search for democratic legitimacy and popular support.

“Standing up to big US corporations marketing allegedly dangerous products and processes is one way of doing that”.

Gabriel siles brugge coverHowever, as Siles-Brügge points out, such trade policy negotiations are conducted in secret, ‘dominated by experts and other insiders’.

He concludes: “The increasing constraints that global trade negotiations place on the economic sovereignty of states suggest the need for the public and civil society to be part and parcel of trade negotiations”.


Trade policy should no longer be ‘a closed policy domain’.



Is there a swing away from genetically modified crops?

Ian, who sent in the news from the San Francisco Chronicle, comments: “Americans are waking up to the fact that over in Europe conventional (non GMO) and organic are the norm … so why would anybody bother growing GM crops which, increasingly, consumers do not want?”

California farmers and food processors have seen the organic market grow to a $29 billion business in the United States, nearly quadrupling in the past decade and experts are predicting that Walmart’s decision to stock organic processed foods will induce the largest farm state in the nation, to increase its organic production.

whole food wild oats logoStacy Finz reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that Wild Oats, a well-known organic brand, will supply Walmart with a range of staples – from olive oil and spices to spaghetti sauce and canned vegetables. About 90% of the products will be U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic and will sell for about 25% less than other national organic labels.

Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said: “We think shoppers should be able to put good food on the table for an affordable price,” adding that Walmart already sells 1,600 organic products, including produce and name-brand dairy products.

The vast majority of food in California is still grown conventionally and farmers have been reluctant to convert, letting their fields fallow for three years to meet the organic certification requirements. As supply is limited Walmart will stock Wild Oats products in 2,000 of its 4,000 food stores.

A good move?

“But this changes the entire agricultural landscape for organic foods,” said Helen Bulwik, of the Newport Board Group, a retail and consumer consulting  firm. She sees the Walmart deal as a game-changer: “There will be a total reversal. Once it’s accessible and inexpensive, everyone is going to want it.”

don cameron us farm gm non gmDon Cameron, of Terranova Ranch, a large-scale processing tomato grower near Fresno, has increased his organic acreage from 30 acres in 1993 to 550 acres, rotating from tomatoes to crops such as bell peppers, onions and kale. He produces about 20,000 tons of organic tomatoes a year, much of which is sold to Amy’s, a Bay Area natural and organic food company. Interviewed by an industry journalist, he asserted that with careful management conventional/organic and biotech crops can co-exist . . .

There is, however, concern that if Walmart were to incentivise large-scale organic production, industrial organic practices would become more widespread. Farmers would adhere to the bare minimum of organic standards and end up depleting soil health.

Stacy Finz, San Francisco Chronicle : sfinz@sfchronicle.com

Consultation on trade disruptions due to low level GM in ostensibly GM-free food

Several countries have asked the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to organise an international dialogue on the issue of trade disruptions involving low levels of GM crops in ostensibly GM free food.

In Rome on 20-21 March 2014 there will be a Technical Consultation on Low Levels of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in International Food and Feed Trade, intended to facilitate a common understanding of the issue, not to reach policy agreements..

un survey gm trade disruption cover.

In 2013, FAO sent a questionnaire to member countries to gather information on the extent and nature of problems incurred with low levels of GM in traded commodities. 75 countries responded to the questionnaire and a report summarizing and analyzing the response to the questionnaire has been prepared and will be presented at the Consultation as a basis for discussion. On page 23 of the survey the issue was summarised:

“There is ongoing disruption to trade due to asychronous authorizations between EU and third countries. The current “tolerance” of < 0.1% under Reg 619/2011 is inadequate to facilitate trade between third countries and the EU. Trade problems are likely to increase in future, as more GM events enter the pipeline, giving rise to more frequent incidents of asynchronous authorizations and rejection of (maize) consignments Ireland from US.

“After the notification, consignments already imported into Japan were tested and those found positive were shipped back. After the above phase, import became acceptable only when consignments for Japan were tested and certified to be free of Bt10”.

Sustainable Pulse, owned and maintained by a group of concerned citizens and scientists, highlights the finding that there was an increase in cases between 2009 and 2012, when 138 out of the 198 incidents were reported; shipments with low levels of GM crops originated mainly from the US, Canada and China, although other countries also accidentally shipped such crops; once detected, most shipments were destroyed or returned to the exporting country; the highest number of incidents involved linseed, rice, maize and papaya. It reported that Renata Clarke, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer said:

“In the survey, countries also asked us to help them assess whether GM crops are safe to eat and we would like to see countries sharing any scientific findings they have on the subject. For this purpose, FAO established FAO GM Foods Platform, a web page for countries to share information on safety assessment.” The platform can be accessed at fao.org/gm-platform/.