Coexistence in agriculture

Policy reports | 28.11.2003 | 031126-01

COGEM points out that the issue of coexistence is not an environmental safety problem but an economic and societal problem. The consumer's and producer's freedom of choice as well as the right of different forms of agriculture to exist, are key issues within this problem. The debate about coexistence should not be restricted to the cultivation of genetically modified crops versus non-genetically modified crops but should be extended to the entire supply chain (seed producers, growers, processing industry, distributors, etc) and, in particular, to the possibilities for separating supply chains. The consumer's freedom of choice is directly dependent on the potential markets and viability of the different types of cultivation. Coexistence is only possible if the parties involved agree upon effective rules, such as threshold values and isolation distances. COGEM notes that the isolation distances between genetically modified and non-genetically modified seeds proposed by the EU, lack a clear scientific basis. Therefore COGEM recommends a gradual development of these isolation distances, based on further research. When threshold values for permitted mixing with genetically modified organisms are established, the effects on later phases in the chain must also be considered. Threshold values should be set in accordance with the characteristics of the crop and must be feasible for the grower, enforceable for the government and acceptable for consumers. Measures imposed must do justice to the size of the problem. Training and certification are important instruments for realising the separation of supply chains.

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