Nebraska may aid biotechnology shift in EU

Nov 6th, 2008 | By | Category: November 6, 2008, Research

Europeans may be on the verge of reassessing their long-held resistance to genetically modified crops, and Nebraska could play a role in that shift, a UNL plant geneticist said.

Sally Mackenzie, who directs UNL’s Center for Plant Science Innovation, recently returned from trip to Brussels, Belgium, as part of a delegation led by Gov. Dave Heineman. The trip came at the invitation of Neil Parish, chairman of the European Union’s agriculture committee, who visited Nebraska last spring.

Parish, one of the EU’s leading advocates of genetically modified crop technology, visited several Nebraska sites, including UNL’s Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead, in May. In part, he was interested in how American farmers have integrated biotechnology into crop production.

The Nebrasaka delegation’s visit included testimony before the EU Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, visits to farms and discussions with a number of European officials.

Europeans’ widespread opposition to biotechnology may be softening in light of economic pressures and the success other parts of the world have had incorporating the technology into ag production, Mackenzie said.

“With so many changes emerging in the world’s economy, resource distribution, climate and food supply, this may be the time when the public reassesses previous opinions regarding the integration of biotechnologies into our agricultural system,” the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources scientist said in her testimony to the EU Parliament committee.

Committee members were surprised and impressed by the partnerships UNL has formed with biotechnology companies to bring new technologies to market, Mackenzie said.

Some European policy makers are concerned that their countries’ resistance to genetically modified foods has left them behind other parts of the world, including the U.S., Brazil, China and Australia.

Nebraska producers and UNL scientists may get a chance to contribute to this reassessment. Heineman invited the whole committee to visit Nebraska to learn more. Mackenzie said she thinks at least some members will accept.

— Story by Dan Moser, IANR News Service

Tags: , , , ,

Leave Comment