The European livestock industry could run out of animal feed in less than 18 months owing to the EU's "unworkable" approach to genetically modified (GM) crops, feed importers have warned.
The EU is now so out of kilter with the rest of the world with its zero tolerance stance on imports of feedstocks containing unauthorised GM materials that sourcing 'legal' feed could become almost impossible by 2010, according to the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).
Unless something was done to allow for the adventitious presence of unauthorised GM material up to a certain threshold or to speed up the authorisation process, the viability of the meat industry could be seriously threatened, warned AIC feed executive chairman Tony Bell. "There are real dangers that our livestock industry will be destroyed due to lack of raw material supplies."
The EU's zero tolerance approach had already "practically stopped the import of maize gluten feed and corn distillers", revealed Bell. But most worryingly, the availability of non-GM soybeans and derivatives from Brazil (currently the major source of supply), would decline significantly in the next year as farmers switched to new GM varieties that are not authorised in the EU, he predicted.
"By 2010, the availability of non-GM and authorised GM soybean meal from Brazil, Argentina or the US will be less than 10% of current supplies." But growing more non-GM soybeans in the EU instead would not solve the problem, added Bell: "Doubling domestic production of non-GM soybeans will only hope to fill 13% of Europe's current demand of soybean meal."
Likewise, feeding animals with non-GM alternatives to soya was also problematic as soybean meal had the highest protein content of any comparable crop and contained amino acids that were key to meat production, he added.
The irony was that meat from animals in South America fed on GM feed not authorised in Europe could still be imported into the EU without any regulatory issues - and at more competitive prices, he added.
While feed companies had tried to ensure that unapproved GM materials were excluded from imported soy products, the EU's zero tolerance policy had "proved so stringent as to render complete exclusion impossible", claimed Bell. "Brazil is heading for 80% [production of GM soybeans not currently authorised in the EU], thus technically unavoidable residues with these new GM varieties will be found in the non-GM soya as well as in GM supplies."
Currently, just 17 GM seed varieties have been approved in the EU, with more than 70 still waiting for assessment, said Bell. "The European Commission has to take a practical view."