An EU move away from a single-market approach on genetically modified (GM) technology could possibly create new trade bans, the principal scientific adviser at seed company Syngenta said June 9.
“It’s clear that within Europe there are some countries that will never accept GM technology. The issue is going to be, if you go away from a single market, are you going to create all sorts of new trade bans?” Syngenta’s Mike Bushell told Reuters in an interview.
“We would prefer to see a level playing field, a common market,” said Bushell.
The European Union is set to overhaul its approval system for GM crops from next month, including proposals to allow countries to choose whether to grow or ban GM, to help make the approval system more efficient.
The plan is likely to mean an increase in commercial planting in countries already using GM technology, such as Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic, while legally endorsing existing bans in countries including Italy, Austria and Hungary.
If the plan is adopted, Syngenta was likely to increase research and development spending in Europe and would consider increasing staff numbers in the region, Bushell said.
“In 2004, we made the decision to move our GM research and development out of Europe so hundreds of high-tech jobs have disappeared from Europe because of that, equally hundreds of high-tech jobs could come back if there was a clear path for Syngenta to take this technology to the market,” said Bushell.
But any changes to the EU approval process are not expected to have an immediate impact on GM crop plantings in the bloc.
“The problem with us having removed a lot of our research and development out of Europe is that the focus on European crops will need to be rebuilt and a GM program to go from the start of a project to registration and sales is a 10-year project,” said Bushell.