"We have to get used to the idea that there are no longer any
Director of production, Pioneer Romania
Austria is considered to be largely free from genetic engineering: up to now, no transgenic organisms have been released into the environment, and Austrian supermarkets stock practically no products that are labelled as containing genetically modified constituents. However, genetic engineering has sneaked into Austrian agriculture through the back door in the form of animal feedstuffs.
Domestic production of feedstuff is insufficient to cover the protein requirements of the Austrian livestock industry. Austria imports around 550,000 tonnes of soya annually, of which according to Greenpeace around 60% is genetically modified. Although the law has required these feedstuffs to be labelled as such since 2004, there is no obligation to label secondary products such as meat, eggs or milk produced from animals which have consumed these feedstuffs.
Hardly any tests have been carried out to establish what effect this might have on animal or human organisms. What is obvious however is that wide-scale cultivation of genetically modified soya in countries such as Argentina is having huge negative impacts: use of crop sprays has risen drastically, forests are being felled and the nutritional situation of the inhabitants has by and large deteriorated dramatically.
Worldwide, genetically modified plants are being grown on more than 60 million hectares, 99% of them in Canada, Argentina, China and the USA. They consist mainly of soya (58%), maize (23%), cotton (12%) and rape (7%).
Within the EU there is a growing movement of consumers – including farmers – who are against the release into the environment of transgenic organisms and GM foods. In response to this, the EU announced a moratorium – in the face of strong opposition from the World Trade Organisation – on the import of genetically modified seed, effective until 2004. Since then EU law has required all foods containing GM constituents to be labelled. And since then genetic engineering has been increasingly infiltrating agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in admission states such as Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.