The European Union risks losing vital trade links with animal feed suppliers such as the United States, Argentina and Brazil, if it fails to keep pace with GM approvals, according to a report commissioned by Brussels Agriculture Department.

The EU is by far the world´s biggest agricultural importer with imports worth 83€ billion in 2008-10. Soybean  meal (an intermediate product) remains the EU´s top import, with worth €6,4 billion. Soybeans (a commodity) worth  €4.5 billion is ranked at number 3 (together soybean meal and soybens add up to 13% of total imports). The soya market remains highly concentrated, with nearly 100% of EU impports coming from the key suppliers: Brazil and Argentina for meal and the US for soybeans.

Asynchronous authorisations — where GMs are authorised in third countries for food and feed but not in the European Union — have previously caused disruptions of protein feed supplies, when imports were blocked at European Union borders.

The 154-page report calculates blockages of soymeal from the European Union’s main suppliers as a result of traces of non-authorised GMs would result in a soybean price increase of over 200 percent and could see farm profits drop nearly £1 billion in the pigmeat sector.

The study follows the green light to Commission proposals allowing up to 0.1 percent of non-authorised GM material in feed imports, which now face the scrutiny of MEPs ahead of its scheduled entry into force at the end of May.

The report suggests the likelihood of ‘low level presence’ of non-authorised GMs in European Union feed imports is forever increasing as new GM varieties are increasingly developed.

Exporters cannot cope with the logistical capacity of segregating GM material that is European Union authorised from unauthorised, it says.It warns global competition for access to livestock feedstuffs is growing with developing countries such as China showing a surge in demand for protein crops. The study encourages the European Union to accelerate authorisation processes for novel GM events and favours the harmonisation of low level presence rules at a global level.