July 31, 2008

Soy shortage looms in EU as GM concerns linger


The EU could soon a face a continent-wide soy shortage thanks to its non-GM policy. 

With GM soy increasingly dominant in the US, Argentina and Brazil, the world's main soy growers, EU countries have become increasingly divided over its use.

EU farmers meanwhile are not able to get access to much needed soy supplies for their livestock due to the impasse as the bloc continues to remain largely off-limits to GM soy.  

The E.U. imports nearly 40 million metric tons of soy annually, or three quarters of its total soy consumption. Soys account for 55 percent of Europe's protein-rich animal feed, according to G.M.O Compass, a Web site sponsored in part by the European Commission.

Rising prices would cause rising meat production costs in the EU.

An analysis published in 2007 by the commission's agriculture directorate found that under a "worst-case scenario," in which soy imports from the US, Brazil and Argentina are interrupted, European pork production would fall 34.7 percent in 2010 and poultry production would fall 43.9 percent.

While Argentina and Brazil have in the past been careful about only clearing biotech strains that have been approved for import into the EU, China, who became a major soy importer in recent years may make them less concerned about the European market, according to the analysis.

Doubts within the EU on Brazil's ability to control the planting of unapproved biotech crops also meant that importers would be reluctant to bring in supplies because of the higher risk of contamination.

A large majority of EU consumers ( 58 percent ) continues to oppose bringing GM crops into the food supply, according to a poll released in March by Eurobarometer, the commission's public polling office.

The current environment makes it more difficult to get approval in the EU to grow or import biotech crops than almost anywhere else in the world.

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