Denmark mulls GM crop restrictions

Auken looks to copy UK approach, calls for voluntary agreement to delay commercialisation

Denmark could copy a recent UK initiative and delay commercial plantings of genetically modified (GM) crops, it has emerged. Environment minister Svend Auken discussed the idea with the Danish parliament's environment committee yesterday, and has argued in favour of restricting commercialisation in the Danish press.

Last week the UK government and plant growers came to an agreement to delay commercialisation of all GM crops for one year, and of insect or herbicide-resistant crops for three years (ENDS Daily 21 October).

Following the announcement of the deal, Mr Auken held an hour-long telephone conversation on the initiative with UK environment minister Michael Meacher, ENDS Daily understands. He then asked the Danish Environmental Protection Agency to open discussions with Danish plant breeders with a view to creating a similar agreement.

GM crop trials are underway at a number of sites in Denmark, but as yet there are no definite plans for commercial plantings. The most likely candidate for commercialisation would be a herbicide-resistant sugar beet grown for animal fodder. Of those GM crops that already have EU marketing approval, potato and oilseed rape varieties would be the most applicable to Danish agriculture, a spokesperson for the Danish Agricultural Council told ENDS Daily. There are also limited possibilities for maize in the southern region, she said.

Mr Auken is also hoping that the revision of EU legislation covering GM crops expected to be agreed under the Austrian presidency will bring stricter controls, the EPA official said. In particular, Denmark wants to see compulsory monitoring of crops and more research into the long-term effects that could be associated with herbicide-resistant crops, such as increased pesticide use, he said.

Concern over GM crops appears to be growing among EU member states. Earlier this year, France announced a two-year moratorium on the production of crops, including some already given EU marketing approval (ENDS Daily 3 August). At an EU biotechnology industry conference held earlier this week, a European Commission official warned the industry that widespread public concern could necessitate stricter controls (ENDS Daily 29 October).

Follow Up:
Danish environment ministry, tel: +45 32 66 05 77; Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.

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