Danes are going to have to get used to their cows chewing away at genetically modified maize and soya beans, at least if the Danish Minister for Food Eva Kjær Hansen (Lib) could decide.
The minister wants to make it much easier to get approval for GMO products – initially GMO feed, in order to help the world’s starving millions.
“There will be a major requirement for more food. We have to find out whether we can do something with plants to make them more drought resistant, or to make them better able to tolerate (a lot of) water,” says Kjær Hansen, adding that she sees major benefits in GMO crops being able to manage without pesticides.
“If bio-technology can help plants become stronger so we don’t have to use so much pesticide, that is something we should look at,” Kjær Hansen says.
But the minister says that in research and agricultural terms, Denmark will lose the race to produce GMO feed and foodstuffs if something is not done immediately, and she wants to initiate a popular debate designed to allay Danish GMO scepticism.
Conservative and Social Democratic spokesmen agree.
“GMO has come to stay and is something that we must also have in Denmark to make sure that our agriculture can compete,” says Conservative Spokesman Knud Kristensen, adding that EU approval systems should be speeded up.
The Social Liberals, Unity List and the Socialist People’s Party, however, remain sceptical. While for its part, the Danish People’s Party is not prepared to criticise the slow process of EU approvals.
“These products must be thoroughly investigated, and that is something that takes time and cannot be forced. Eva Kjær Hansen will be gambling with the health of the population and the environment by suddenly allowing a lot of unnatural things,” says Danish People’s Party Foodstuff Spokesman Jørn Dohrmann.
The chair of the Danish National Ecological Association says that there is no proof that GMO gives increased production, while there are examples of test animals reacting negatively to GMO.
“I think there is a long way to go before we can see GMO as something positive,” Evald Vestergaard says.