Ahead of a vote later this month, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has made a strong case in favour of the approval of the first genetically modified (GM) food crop, maize 1507, for cultivation in the EU. In a speech, delivered on 7 January in Oxford, UK, Paterson called on the member states to make their decision on the basis of scientific evidence rather than under pressure from anti-GMO organisations and lobby groups. "Let me be clear: there are other tools in the toolbox, GM is not a panacea. But the longer Europe continues to close its doors to GM, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether," Paterson said, referring to growing GM production on other continents, especially in North and South America (Brazil and Argentina) but also in Asia (China and India) and Africa (South Africa). "Europe risks becoming the 'museum of world farming' as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets," he warned. Monsanto and BASF, two major biotech producers, have already decided to halt GM crop development in Europe due to lack of acceptance among both consumers and farmers.

The two GM crops (starch potato Amflora and BT maize), which are authorised for cultivation in the EU, are currently grown only on some 100,000 hectares. Meanwhile, GM crop hectares worldwide have over the recent years increased by an unprecedented 100-fold, from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 170.3 million hectares in 2012. India and China alone planted 15 million hectares of GM cotton in 2012. South Africa increased its GM area by 0.6 million hectares to reach 2.9 million hectares...

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