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posted by hubie on Thursday May 25, @03:26AM   Printer-friendly

Last year's drought severely affected crops in Europe

Extreme weather caused by climate change has damaged food production across Europe.

Confronted with a deteriorating situation, divided European Union decision-makers are debating new rules for genetically modified crops.

Last year's drought ravaged the continent's farms, starving everything from Spanish olive harvests to Hungary's maize and sunflower crops, Italian and Romanian corn fields to France's dairy production.

Some argue the answer to Europe's problems is deregulating gene modification techniques to produce better crops. Others claim this would be a "smokescreen" to avoid having to radically change the way the bloc farms.

Supporters say seeds produced using gene editing techniques are less vulnerable to drought and disease—and require less water.

[...] The powerful European farming lobby group Copa-Cogeca supports the new rules.

"If we need to supply society with food in Europe, and if we want to be self-sufficient, then we need to adapt rules," said Thor Gunnar Kofoed, chair of the seed working group at Copa-Cogeca.

A majority of EU lawmakers support relaxing the rules.

[...] The Greens want a full risk assessment to avoid unintended effects and force producers to ensure detection and traceability methods, and make labeling compulsory.

Labeling would put off consumers who prefer GMO-free food, said Mute Schimpf, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, who criticized the reform.

"This proposal is a smokescreen to avoid the debate we should have on shifting to a truly sustainable farming system," she told AFP.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, @04:37AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, @04:37AM (#1308057)

    The real issue is not GM food in and of itself. In "food conservative" countries like France, there is already all kinds of industrial cr*p in the food sections and people are free to buy them or not.
    The problems are what comes with GM food:
    - copyrighted seeds (forgot the exact name) and all the issues related to cost and licensing,
    - loss of genetic diversity in crops,
    - impact of GM chemistry on pollinators,
    - uncontrollable spread of GM material to nearby areas...

    Perhaps last year drought-resistant GM seeds would have been the solution, what about this and next year? Most people don’t want to be limited to buying "The Apple®" and like to have a variety of options. Is there already a variety of GM seeds multi-resistant to all foreseeable scourges?

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday May 25, @06:09AM (1 child)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Thursday May 25, @06:09AM (#1308062)

    Whatever rules they implement, someone is going to have to be very specific about what constitutes "Gene editing". Some of the techniques, like CRISPR, are obviously on their list. Then there is Bacterial transfer using Agrobacterium tumefaciens to cut in genes. That seems obvious too. Then there's printing a bunch of the target dna, dipping a wee tiny bullet in it, and shooting it into the plant. All those are "easy" to put on that list, but they represent a tiny fraction of how we've modified plant genetics. A. tumefaciens doesn't only gene splice in a lab; it, other bacteria, and viruses have been injecting their DNA into plants for eons before primates dominated the earth. Do they count? Then we have wildly successful programs where we Nuked plants [], induced triploidy via mechanical damage or hybridization, and used mutagenic carcinogens like ethyl methanesulfonate to give us feedstocks for selective breeding. Even selective breeding alone is genetic modification at some level.

    Drawing a box around what is and isn't gene editing isn't trivial.