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Planting genetically modified crops remains slow in Europe

Gil Gullickson 11/23/2011 @ 6:01pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

They look like many U.S. citizens. In fact, many U.S. citizens can link their ancestry to their European forefathers. When it comes to planting genetically modified crops, though, a chasm exists between the United States and European residents.

Most U.S. farmers and consumers don’t blink an eye when it comes to planting or consuming products from genetically modified crops.

The European Union (EU), though, has resisted planting genetically modified crops since they first surfaced in the 1990s.

There has been a slight crack in the EU’s genetically modified wall when it comes to planting these crops. Spanish farmers can plant genetically modified corn. In 2010, the European Commission also allowed genetically modified potato varieties developed by BASF to be grown in some EU countries.

“Farmers see the relevance of genetically modified crops when they try them,” says Peter Eckes, president of BASF Plant Science.

Still, most EU countries remain steadfast against planting genetically modified crops. In France—the largest European agricultural country—no genetically crops were grown in 2010, notes Eckes.

Eckes noted at BASF’s Global Agricultural Solutions Press Info Day in Ludwigshafen, Germany, held earlier this month that resistance may eventually soften as transgenic technologies evolve.

Initially, genetically modified crops featured tolerance to herbicides and resistance to insects. “These technologies increased productivity and focused strongly on the farmer and his needs,” says Eckes.

This hasn’t registered with European consumers. Eckes notes consumers in wealthy European countries have not perceived first-generation genetically modified traits as a benefit. Still, new generation traits are in the works to boost the health attributes of foods, such as the addition of vitamins, enzymes or healthy fatty acids.

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