By Jamie Doward
UK to back imports of animal feed with traces of GM crops in move to benefit US exporters
The decision to allow feed containing traces of GM crops into the UK is likely to alarm environmentalists who have long resisted such imports. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Observer
Genetically modified crops will be allowed to enter the UK food chain without the need for regulatory clearance for the first time under controversial plans expected to be approved this week.
The Observer understands that the UK intends to back EU plans permitting the importing of animal feed containing traces of unauthorised GM crops in a move that has alarmed environmental groups.
Importing animal feed containing GM feed must at present be authorised by European regulators. But a vote on Tuesday 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.
“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.”
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.