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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 13:24 GMT
Europe's GM crops cover expands
By Tom Heap
BBC News

Maize (Monsanto)
The maize grown in Europe is cultivated for animal feed only
Figures published on Monday show the area planted with genetically modified crops in Europe has grown by 77% since last year.

This year more than 1,000 sq km (386 sq miles) of GM maize was harvested.

The biotech industry says this proves its products are appealing to farmers and are safe for the environment.

The only genetically modified crop grown widely in Europe is maize resistant to the corn borer - a moth larva which eats the stem.

The maize is cultivated for animal feed - not for human consumption.

Planted in Spain for the last 10 years, the maize is now proving popular in France where the acreage has tripled in a year and also in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Neither the pest nor the GM maize is found in Britain.

One thousand sq km (386 sq miles) is still a small fraction of the total farmed area of Europe and also tiny compared with the one million sq km (0.38 million sq miles) under GM around the world - an expanse four times the size of Britain.

Graph showing GM maize cultivation in the EU
Some environmental groups claim beneficial insects could also be harmed by the crop; and in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has suspended all GM plantings until next year.

Clare Oxborrow is a Friends of the Earth food campaigner. She told the BBC that the increase in the area planted with GM crops should not be viewed as beneficial.

"The reality is, these crops have failed to deliver benefits, and more and more evidence is, in fact, coming to light showing that there are increased concerns about their environmental risks," she said.

"GM crops, GM industry is not competitive, it is not creating jobs, it is not creating any new environmental benefits, it's not accepted by consumers, and I think we need to take a long, hard look. These figures today are more about the industry trying to reassure its investors than any significant success."

But Julian Little, who chairs the Agricultural Biotech Council, an umbrella group that represents six major companies interested in the commercial use of GM crops, countered this point of view.

"For the first time in the European Union, there is over a 100,000 hectares of GM crops being grown, exploding yet another myth in the whole line of myths that said that GM crops don't work, GM crops will never be popular, GM crops will never be embraced in Europe.

"Year on year, we see increases in farmers excited about the technology, trying it - it works," he told BBC News.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Footage from a GM crops protest in 2001



SEE ALSO
UK's tentative go-ahead for GMs
09 Mar 04 |  Science/Nature
Growing pains of India's GM revolution
07 Feb 07 |  Science/Nature
New crops needed to avoid famines
03 Dec 06 |  Science/Nature



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