The Observer understands that the UK intends to back EU plans permitting the importing of animal feed containing maximum traces of 0.1% of unauthorised GM. Environmental groups are alarmed.
Importing animal feed containing GM feed must at present be authorised by European regulators. But a vote last week in favour of the scheme put forward by the EU's standing committee on the food chain and animal health would overturn the EU's "zero tolerance" policy towards the import of unauthorised GM crops.
The move would mark a significant victory for the GM lobby, which has pushed for a relaxation of the blanket ban for years.
Environmental groups claim the GM industry wants to use the presence of unauthorised organisms in animal feed as part of a wider strategy to promote its technology.
‘Contaminate food chain’
"The GM industry is pushing this proposal so it can wedge its foot firmly in the door and open up the British and European markets to food no one wants to eat," said Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, which campaigns against GM food.
"Its long-term aim is to contaminate the food chain to such an extent that GM-free food will disappear."
Benefit US exporters
Relaxing the EU's zero-tolerance position would greatly benefit US feed exporters.
The push for Europe to drop its zero-tolerance policy began in 2009 after EU authorities found traces of GM maize in soy shipments from the US and refused to allow its entry. Such recalls are expensive and those affected are unlikely to receive compensation.
GM supporters warn that the current zero-tolerance policy could result in a dramatic shortage of feed for livestock. But critics dismiss the claims as scaremongering and say there is no evidence to back up them up.
Friends of the Earth Europe said it had obtained expert legal advice questioning the legality of the EU's plan. But European regulators believe that allowing the import of animal feed containing no more than 0.1% of GM traces does not jeopardise food security.
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