GM Hijack Sees Protein Report Rewritten

27 January 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, SNP full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the committee's vote (Wednesday) on the Hausling Report on the EU's protein deficit.
The report, written by Smith's group colleague, contained many important points on the need to reduce the EU's dependence on imports on protein crops, through a mixture of new financial incentives, encouragement for crop rotation, and research and training services. However, the report was hijacked by the pro-GM lobby, who successfully inserted amendments on the need for a tolerance of unauthorised GM contaminated feed imports: a distraction from the real issues facing Europe and its ability to produce more protein crops. As a result, Smith abstained on the final vote.

Smith said:

"It's frustrating when good reports on important issues are hijacked by lobby groups with vested interests, but even more so when the result is the dillution of the final report through basically irrelevant additions to the paper, and this has happened in this case.

"It's clear that Europe has a protein deficit problem: dried pulse production has fallen by 30% in a decade, and we import more than 40m tonnes of protein crop every year, mainly high-energy input soy from South America. We have a responsibility to build up our indigenous capacity to produce protein crops for feed - which are also useful for preventing soil erosion and helping in the battle against climate change.

"However, the pro-GM lobby would have you believe that the "silver bullet" to this problem is simply to allow unrestricted access of unauthorised GM-contaminated feed into the European market. They make it sound as if fleet-loads of feed shipments are being turned back at European ports due to tiny rates of contamination, thus raising the price for our farmers. This is a distortion of reality. In 2010, not a single shipment from the US was rejected at any European harbour, and the level of contaminated cargo which has been rejected stands at just 0.1% of soy imports. A Low Level Presence threshold is simply not relevant here, and to provoke this sort of confrontation over an otherwise consensual report is politics at its worst.  

"I'm concerned at the sheer myopia of MEPs who submitted amendments actually celebrating this protein deficit! While it may seem "cheaper" or "more efficient" to import GM soy from the Americas, the price is paid by others: environmentally, through the destruction of Amazonian rainforest to make way for soy fields; socially, by the farmers who are kicked off their land; and the high energy costs of fertiliser and long distance transport will be paid by European farmers. This is a simply myopic policy which will result in the EU's farmers being dependent upon oil-intensive foreign farming, and offers no long-term solution.

"I'm hopeful that when we take this to the full Parliament the majority of MEPs will see sense, take the practical approach and vote down the GM hijacking of what is otherwise a fine report."