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US calls for an end to the EU block on GM and nanotechnology

Tom Levitt and Vi Nguyen

7th December, 2010

US officials say they remain ‘surprised and disappointed’ over Europe’s refusal to embrace technologies like genetic modification (GM) and nanotechnology in farming

European agriculture is being left behind because of its opposition to GM crops and nanotechnology, US officials have warned.

Speaking to the House of Lords Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming, officials from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said both technologies needed to be accepted by EU consumers to allow for ‘more sustainable agriculture’ in the future.

‘I’m a little surprised and disappointed that agriculture, which began so strong in Europe hasn’t taken a greater leap forward to being a part of the economy that might be if these new technologies and approaches were carried forward,’ said USDA chief scientist Dr Roger Beachy.

He said scientists had to find ways to make new technologies like GM sound ‘non-threatening’ to consumers.

Many European countries have opposed the introduction of GM crops with a recent Greenpeace and Avaaz petition calling for a ban gaining more than one million signatures of support. MEPs voted in July to ban meat and dairy products from cloned animals and a introduce a moratorium on foods using nanotechnology until potential health risks can be ruled out.

However, committee member Baroness Howarth of Breckland spoke out in support of the US line and said the EU had ‘failed to look at the research objectively’ on GM and had been ‘driven by particular lobbying groups’.

‘I think that is likely to happen with other new technologies unless scientists find ways of presenting the information differently and engaging consumers on a different level,’ she said.

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