World Grain - October 2011 - (Page 62)

COMMENTARY Is biotech blooming in B Europe? p ioengineered seeds and the products made from them have faced tough sledding in Western Europe. So it is a small but perhaps significant development that the United Kingdom’s House of Lords in July released a report that questions whether Europe’s approach to agricultural biotechnology has been “too precautionary.” The report was from the House of Lords European Union Committee. Its charge was not to review the E.U.’s biotechnology policy but rather to explore a different question: how European agriculture should play a role in enhancing global food security while helping moderate climate change, reduce water scarcity and ease agriculture’s stress on the environment? Not surprisingly, the report foresees a key role for agricultural innovation. It particularly endorses approaches that raise productivity on existing croplands while reducing stress on natural resources. Agricultural biotechnology has to be part of any innovation tool kit that serves those goals on a costcompetitive basis. POLICY CHOICES ON BIOTECHNOLOGY This is a long way from changing the E.U.’s policies with respect to agricultural biotechnology. The E.U. has been slow to approve products of agricultural biotechnology, has imposed labeling requirements that all but force E.U. food manufacturers to reformulate their products to avoid the “genetically modified organism” label and has discouraged developing countries wanting to export foods to Europe from using biotechnology through cumbersome traceability requirements. It also has tolerated protests that have made even pilot plots of bioengineered products unwelcome. These public policies will need to change before agricultural biotechnology begins to play the role in E.U. farming that the House of Lords report envisions. The environmental community may be critical in any such policy change and may 62 well find itself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, E.U. environmental groups have been among the most outspoken critics of bioengineered organisms. They have worried about “super weeds,” genetic drift, pesticide resistance and the like. They also worry about water scarcity, where biotechnology may help build in drought resistance. They worry about climate change, where biotechnology may both accelerate adaptability and promote intensification on existing croplands, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land-use conversion. And they see a role for agriculture in producing cleaner fuels, a task that genetic engineering may play an important role in advancing. MARKET ACCEPTANCE A ROADBLOCK Public policy choices, however, are not influenced only by these food security and sustainability concerns. The politics of change are particularly encumbered by lack of consumer familiarity with and acceptance of biotech products in Europe. Fears of the GMO label have left European food shelves largely bare of products containing biotech ingredients. This makes it difficult, even unlikely, that European consumers will become more comfortable with agricultural biotechnology through gradual exposure and informed choice. Here, however, Europeans are not alone. Even in North America, bioengineered wheat and rice are resisted. While bioengineered corn and soybeans have entered the food chain virtually unnoticed, their presence is mainly in animal feeds. U.S. consumers share with their European counterparts the need for more education and direct experience with products of agricultural biotechnology to reach fully informed acceptance of genetic engineering. PHASED OVERSIGHT OF BIOTECH All of this suggests that it may be necessary to think beOctober 2011 / World Grain /

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of World Grain - October 2011

World Grain - October 2011
Grain’s influence on global population trends
News review
Focus on Turkey
In it for the long haul
Deregulation shapes shipping market in Australia
Port developments
News Roundup
Thai rice plan controversial
A growing force in corn
Is biotech blooming in Europe?
A battle for China
Marketing maneuvers
Biofuels News Review
A new imaging method for millers
U.S. soy crushers face challenges
IAOM Eurasia
Flour trade prospects improve
Ridding your facility of rodents
Intersystems expanding Omaha facility
OCRIM school educates millers from around the world
Perten Instruments acquires TexVol Instruments
Food Protection Alliance names Schmitz as director
SternMaid to participate in Food Ingredients Europe
Insta-Pro International names Latin American sales manager
Alltech realigns leadership team
Advertiser Index

World Grain - October 2011