17 May 2002

Brussels tried to cover up GM report

By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent

Many genetically modified crops would not be economically viable for farmers, according to a study the European Commission wanted to keep secret because it casts doubts on the commercial future of GM farming.

In a letter to the European Commission accompanying the study, Barry McSweeney, the director-general of the Joint Research Centre, said: "Given the sensitivity of the issue, I would suggest that the report be kept for internal use within the Commission only."

Dr Franz Fischler, the EU Agriculture Commissioner, has referred to the study, but it has not yet been made public.

It showed that the costs of keeping GM and non-GM crops separate would often be too high to make commercial planting of GM crops economically feasible.

In particular, the study warned that introducing GM crops would burden organic oilseed rape and conventional maize and potato growers with "unsustainable costs of production" that would see the farm prices of their crops rise by up to 41 per cent.

Lorenzo Consoli, EU policy adviser at Greenpeace, said: "The European Commission has tried to keep this study secret because it was afraid of its political implications."

Dr Fischler's spokesman said publication of the report had been delayed because it required agreement by several agencies within the European Commission. He said it was likely to be published "in the next days or weeks".