BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A leading European environment group accused the biotech industry on Wednesday of inflating global planting data for genetically modified crops, saying the figures gave a false picture of how far GM farming was accepted.
Later on Wednesday, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will issue its 2008 GM crop sowings report. But their figures, green groups say, should not be taken as meaning GM farming was widespread.
“GM crops are grown in a very small surface area worldwide, and only significantly in countries targeting the markets of richer nations,” Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth (FoE), said in a statement.
So far, only one GM crop may be grown in the EU: an insect-resistant maize type, MON 810, developed by U.S. biotech company Monsanto. Just seven of the EU’s 27 member states grew this maize commercially in 2008.
“Global acceptance of GM crops would mean big bucks for an industry that profits from royalties for patented seeds and pesticides, but Europe has resisted GM food and crops for more than 10 years,” FoE’s Holder said.
European consumers are well known for their skepticism, if not hostility, to GM crops, often called “Frankenstein foods.”
The biotech industry says its products are as safe as conventional equivalents. After hefty investments and years of research, it is frustrated over what it sees as the EU’s delay in approving GM products to deny it access to European markets.
Last month, environment group GM Freeze said ISAAA’s 2007 report differed substantially in its GM area figures to those given by Monsanto, particularly for Poland and Romania — thus making “the GM industry look more successful than they are.”
ISAAA, which will issue its 2008 sowings report at 1500 GMT, defended its work and said the figures were in fact conservative and based on a wide range of reliable sources.
“We are very confident in the ISAAA statistics,” said Clive James, author of the ISAAA report, adding that before ISAAA reports a number for a country, multiple estimates were taken from public and private sources.
“The statistics published in ISAAA’s report are based on a consolidated global database from a broad range of sources, including government agencies and other organizations in the public and private sectors,” he told Reuters.
Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Guy Dresser