|Much of the corn, soybean, sugar beets and cotton cultivated in the United States today contains plants whose DNA was manipulated in labs to resist disease and drought, ward off insects and boost the food supply.|
"I am NOT against GM but we should be more careful about GMOs," said Dr. Franz Fischler, former member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development. "There are bans on the cultivation and sale of GMOs in many European countries but farmers are not banned from using GMO feeds in Europe."
The following is the excerpt of an interview with Dr. Franz Fischler during his visit to China for Boao Asian Forum.
People’s Daily Online: What do you think of the mushrooming of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Is it a good example of agricultural sustainability?
Dr. Franz Fischler: Technology has given a major boost to our capacity to manipulate nature. Our capacity to acquire what we need from the earth tends to reduce the earth's ability to provide naturally what we are seeking. The mushrooming of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is example of this.
I am NOT against GM. I think we should be more careful about GMOs. Much of the corn, soybean, sugar beets and cotton cultivated in the United States today contains plants whose DNA was manipulated in labs to resist disease and drought, ward off insects and boost the food supply. Though common in the U.S., they are largely banned in the 28-nation European Union.
If you look at what is going on worldwide with GMOs, the reality is we have a rough of 200 million hectares of crop acreage planted with GM crops. The Americas constitute the largest growing region, but GM cotton area is substantial in Asia. Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance are the main GM traits, taking about 80 percent of total use of GMOs.
However, yield grains associated with high-yielding varieties have been much lower in sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions, partly as a result of the inadequacies of input and output markets and extension services and poor infrastructure, agricultural products. This in turn has resulted in a low use of irrigation, fertilizers, advanced seeds and pesticides. Therefore, it might help a lot if you introduce GMO varieties and GMO seeds in Africa and especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
People’s Daily Online: How is the market for GMO food and GMO varieties in Europe?
Dr. Franz Fischler: On the consumer side, especially in Europe, they don’t look sympathetic on GMO food. 90 percent of GMO foods in Europe are imported from the US and South America. But on the other hand, European farmers are using GM feeds to raise poultry.
The EU recognizes the consumers' right to information and labeling as a tool for making an informed choice. Since 1997 Community legislation has made labeling of GM food mandatory for products that consist of GMO or contain GMO. But the EU does not ban GMO for feed to raise animal for meat.
People’s Daily Online: Should meat of animals fed GM feed be labeled with GMO in Europe?
Dr. Franz Fischler: No. In Europe, the meat of animals fed GM feed is not labeled GMO. But, if consumers want to know, then… After all, food industry is people-oriented. So far, all food products that make direct use of GMOs at any point in their production are subjected to labeling requirements, regardless of whether or not GM content is detectable in the end product according to EU legislative framework on GM food and feed.
People’s Daily Online: Do you buy GMO food for your family?
Dr. Franz Fischler: No, because, in Austria, my home country, there are bans on the cultivation and sale of GMOs.