Spanish firms seek halt to GM maize growing

Political temperature rises in only EU country with commercial modified crop cultivation

The Spanish government is coming under increasing pressure from the maize processing industry to end Spain's position as the only EU country to permit the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize.

National maize food starch industry association Humaiz claims that Spanish producers are suffering significant commercial damage because of the existence of GM maize in the Spanish market. Humaiz secretary general Felipe Albert told ENDS Daily that "we have made clear to the agriculture ministry that the current situation is unsustainable" and "we hope the new minister will move quickly to solve our problems".

He identified two areas of concern for his members. First, the difficulties which Spanish producers are having in selling their produce to other EU countries given the European food industry's widespread rejection of GM ingredients. And second, the mixing of conventional and GM grain which entails a risk of contamination and obliges processors to undertake expensive analyses.

The agriculture ministry confirmed that it was aware of concerns expressed by maize processing firms plus a majority of farmers' organisations about GM maize cultivation. However, a spokesman told ENDS Daily that, "while the ministry is receptive to these comments, there is no evidence as yet that commercial damage is being caused".

According to the agriculture ministry, out of a total of 455,000 hectares of maize cultivation in Spain, some 20,000 hectares (4.3%) were down to GM maize in 1998, rising to 25,000 hectares (5.5%) in 1999. Most sources predict the figure will fall significantly this year.

Follow Up:
Humaiz, tel: +34 91 711 4599; Spanish agriculture ministry, tel: +34 91 347 5000.

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