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GM foods in Britain and Europe

The editorial by gene watch outlines what is happening within the UK seed industry and how Law can prevent a Conglomerate of companies effecting UK food source with GM products. It looks like UK meat and dairy is already being interfered with.

GM crops enter Britain mainly as animal feed. There is no commercial growing, but there have been experimental trials of GM potatoes and wheat in recent years. In 2014, a trial of GM Camila sativa ("false flax") is planned, which has a genetically altered oil content (high in omega-3).

GM crops and food can enter Europe as food, animal feed, or biofuels. GM food and feed must be approved by EU regulators and must be labelled, but meat and dairy products produced from animals fed on GM feed are not required to be labelled. In 2011, the EU decided to allow low levels of unapproved GM crops in animal feed. GM crops can be grown experimentally with approval from national regulators, or commercially if approved by the EU.

Decisions on GM crop cultivation are currently made at EU level but in 2010, the European Commission proposed that approvals could be speeded up if countries were allowed to make national decisions on whether to grow them or not (the "opt out" proposal). In 2014, the "opt out" proposal for GM crop cultivation was revived by UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who worked with the industry to develop a version which could fast-track RoundUp Ready GM crops into England and some other countries (especially Spain). This proposal was adopted by the Environment Council but later amended by the European Parliament's Environment Committee to strengthen the legal basis for countries wishing to ban GM, increase democratic accountability, improve protections for the environment, and require national laws on co-existence and liability to protect GM-free farming and limit cross-border contamination. The proposal is expected to be adopted in 2015 following further discussion with parliament and member states.

Syngenta's GA21 maize (which is tolerant to the weedkiller glyphosate, brandname RoundUp) is the only remaining GM crop in the commercial pipeline that would be suitable for growing in England, if plans to opt-in to growing GM crops under new draft EU legislation go ahead. Scotland and Wales will opt out of growing GM crops to maintain access to GM free markets and protect the environment.

The current situation is summarised below

Scotland has a GM-free policy, as does Wales.

In June 2011, the UK Coalition Government outlined its policy on GM crops in its response to the Science and Technology Committee's report on bioengineering. A summary of the policy has been added to the DEFRA website (under the heading Government policy).

In 2012, the GM industry met with ministers to promote the return of GM crops to Britain. In late 2012, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Prime Minister David Cameron began to make public statements in support of GM crops and in 2014, Paterson worked with industry to develop an EU proposal to allow GM crops to be fast-tracked into Britain. The aim of the "opt out" proposal is to fast track GM crops into pro-GM countries whilst allowing other EU countries to opt out. Details are still being negotiated in the EU.

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