Event Management 2006 G

Seeds of Conflict: Genetically Engineered Crops and Austrian Agricultural Policy

bridges vol. 17, April 2008 / Feature Article

by Hans Kordik

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The United States of America is the biggest producer of crops using genetic engineering (also called genetically modified or “GM” crops), with more than 50 percent of the global GM-production area located in North America. As agricultural trade is of key importance for America’s economy, it’s conceivable that the US also has ambitions to export products derived from genetically modified organisms.


In May 2003, the US, Canada, and Argentina submitted a petition to the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the authorization procedure and the import bans on certain genetically modified organisms in the European Union (EU). In September 2006, the court of arbitration ruled in favour of the claimants in this dispute (click here for further information on the WTO Biotech Dispute). Nevertheless, there has been little support for or progress toward placing GM-products in European farmers’ fields or consumers’ shopping carts. This is based on the reaction of European consumers, who are very sceptical about this new technology.

The production of high-quality, healthy food has always been one of the main concerns of Austrian agriculture. Austrian agriculture is known not only for its landscape-related efforts, but also provides crucial ecological services by promoting environmentally sound and sustainable agriculture such as organic farming. Austrian agriculture does not believe that genetic engineering can provide any benefits, and so rejects it. Organic farmers, as well as conventional Austrian farmers, have made use of their freedom of choice by preferring to abstain from genetic engineering. This orientation correlates closely with the demand of consumers, as the majority of Austrian consumers oppose genetically modified food products.


Cows and Tomatoes, (c) Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management(c) Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management

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