December 4, 2008
Despite the fact that only five European countries are commercially producing genetically modified (GM) crops, output is expected to increase with EU forming the largest market.
That is according to the EU-27 Biotechnology Annual 2008 report published by the USDA.
EU buys mainly soymeal to feed livestock and poultry and 80 percent EU soy crush is genetically engineered.
The EU-27 consumes about 33 million tonnes of soymeal annually in animal feed. The bulk of the soymeal consumed in the EU is imported or produced from imported soy, mainly coming from North and South America.
Total soymeal used by Member States (MS) reach 26 to 31 million tonnes taking up 80 to 95 percent of their total consumption of soymeal. The EU-27 crushes about 14 million tonnes of soy annually, and at least 80 percent is estimated to be genetically engineered (GE) products, taking up 11 million tonnes.
Taking up second place of GM products consumed is corn and corn products (mainly corn gluten feed). Corn products are however consumed at 10-25 percent lower volumes compared to soy products because the EU-27 does not depend so much on corn imports and corn-derived products.
The area devoted to GM corn is expected to expand to about 110,000 hectares in 2009 (mainly located in Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Slovakia and Germany).
Spain now leads in the production of GM crops. Almost all MS adhere to the EU Directive 2001/18 and impose EU regulations on traceability and labelling. MS policy varies among countries although co-existence frameworks have been set up in Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia with five MS countries namely Austria, France, Greece, Hungary and Italy maintaining national bans.
Currently, scientists researching GE products are plagued by a number of problems. Many research scientists have moved to the US where research receives better support or have dropped research due to political pressure. GE products have to foray and compete in a non-GE soy and soymeal market.
In addition, trade has been periodically hit by products that have been approved for cultivation in other countries, but remain illegal in the EU. For example, the US market access for corn gluten feed and distillers dried grains was lost due to this problem.
To see the USDA report, please click here.