British food industry should not underestimate the impact of EC decision to approve GM crops

The European Commission's decision to approve a series of genetically-modified crops, including a starch potato named Amflora, will have a "massive" impact on the way Europeans regard the technology.

This is the claim of Dr Julian Little, chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), who spoke out on the subject at a "food chain" meeting held in London this week by the Crop Protection Association.

Little said: "We should not underestimate its impact. It was a massive decision for the EU to make and it will have a massive impact on the way things are thought of in Europe at the moment, especially as there are likely to be another two approvals of insect-resistant maize in the next few weeks."

"There's a sense of realism grabbing onto the whole process.

Last week's approvals marked the end of a 13-year deadlock in which no GM foods were given the green light by European law makers because of strong anti-GM sentiment in some parts of Europe.

Despite Europe's slow uptake of the technology Little revealed that last year some 300m acres (121m hectares) of GM crops such as maize, soybean and cotton were grown across the globe.

Countries such as India and China, he said, are prominent users of the technology with GM rice, for example, being trialled and expected to be produced commercially in China in the near future.

India also has several horticultural GM crops in development - including a "super" tomato which has a 45-day shelf life, said Little.

"More and more it's not the big companies which are in this business - it's countries like China," said Little.


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