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Most of this growth came from countries such as China and India, while most EU farmers ‘continue to be held back by a dysfunctional regulatory system and by disproportionate co-existence rules’, according to Montagu. The issue of GM approval within the EU is one of the most contentious in agriculture. The recent announcement that US authorities had traced amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) food in samples of rice prompted the EU to clamp down on all imports from the US. The immediacy of this action illustrated the stringent controls the EU has in place to guard against unauthorised products entering the food chain, and also reflected consumer fears over the technology.
However, GM crops are commercially grown only in five EU Member States: Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and the Czech Republic. A larger number of GM crops, including varieties of maize, soya, oilseed rape and cotton which have not received marketing consents in the EU, have been approved for growing outside the EU – particularly North and South America, South Africa, China, India and other parts of the Far East. As commodityexporting countries have adopted GM crop technology, supplies of feed materials to the UK have increasingly contained GM products.
Like it or not, GMOs are here to stay’ She believes that the scepticism in Europe about genetic engineering in agriculture stems from the fact that few GMOs ‘have brought unquestionable benefits to the European table’. But she underlined the fact that the EU must assess each GMO on its own merits, because crops that can resist diseases and insects can be grown in the third world. ‘Like it or not, GMOs are here to stay,’ she said, adding that the EU has a special role to play in the debate because it can contribute to ensuring that GMOs are used in a safe and beneficial way for consumers by, for example, investing public research in this field.