December 4, 2008

Poland extends biotech crop ban


Top Polish decision makers, industry, scientists, producers, and regional political leaders worked together to prevent biotechnology crops in animal feeds from being outlawed. Their work had a direct impact on the repeal of a feed ban in Poland, which was to prohibit import, production and use of animal feed derived from biotech crops by August 12, 2008, according to a US Department of Agriculture attache report posted Wednesday on the Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) Web site.


Introduction of the feed ban has now been extended until the end of 2012, which effectively has killed this legislation. However, Poland's Ministry of Environment is pushing forward on their anti-GMO position with a new draft of a cultivation law, which legislators hope to put into effect by the beginning of 2009. The draft cultivation law is the longest draft law published in Polish history. The law is long, complicated and designed to prevent planting of GM seeds. This point is made in the printed justification as an appendix to the law


Since 2006, Poland has officially maintained an anti-biotech position, consistently has opposed approval of new biotech products in the EU, and has announced that Poland should be a "GM-Free" country. The government banned the sale and registration of biotech seeds in mid-2006 and passed legislation that was to prohibit import, production, and use of animal feed derived from biotech crops by August 12, 2008.


Lobbying hard for the ban on biotechnology-derived animal feed were organic farmers and environmental groups. However, on July 27, 2008, just two weeks before a ban would have gone into effect, Poland's president signed a law pushing back the introduction of a ban to 2013. The GM feed ban was defeated by a coalition of Polish and US trade associations, led by the American Soybean Association, Polish importers, feed manufacturers, meat producers, and diplomatic representations including the Governments of the United States, Argentina, and Canada.


The American Soybean Association, supported by FAS Warsaw, played a key role in defeating the ban. Avoiding this ban prevented disruption of US soy exports to the EU generally and exports of US feed to Poland, worth US$100 million. The educational activities of ASA and FAS Warsaw helped Polish industry get the ammunition they needed to beat the feed ban and has left in place a coalition of contacts working hard to improve EU biotechnology policy, generally.


The American Soybean Association's work in Poland, and across the EU, to get EU approval of new biotechnology soybean varieties will prevent the loss of an US$800 million market for American soy in 2009; delayed EU approval means the United States may no longer be authorized to export to EU member states. The Polish feed ban would have jeopardized roughly US$6.4 billion in Polish pork or poultry production, not including losses for feed compounders.


Defeating the ban benefited major US-based multinationals with investments in Polish agriculture that might have imploded without access to quality, cost-competitive feeds. This success has also triggered great appreciation in Poland's farm sector for starting a healthy, progressive debate on biotechnology, a key US objective in the European Union.


It should be noted, however, that while this legislation is still on the books in Poland, imports are not totally safe. The law that pushed back the ban can still be changed. FAS Warsaw is monitoring the situation closely. Past FAS Warsaw initiatives to stop a GM ban have included, continuous coverage of the situation - monitoring the press, translation and presentation of materials on biotechnology to Polish decision makers, industry associations, scientists, producers and regional political leaders. FAS also provided training in the US on biotechnology to producers and decision makers, invited US and Spanish farmers who cultivate Bt corn to Poland to speak to Ministry representatives, industry associations, scientist, producers and regional political leaders, and finally aided the work of the American Soybean Association to educate Polish importers on the asynchronous approval problem in the EU. Further initiatives directed by FAS Warsaw will continue as needed until this situation is fully resolved.

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