EU asks citizens to join debate on GM food

The European Union on Tuesday took the debate about genetically modified crops to the public with a survey asking citizens to share their thoughts on organic farming.

The bloc's 500 million consumers are invited to complete an anonymous online questionnaire on the European Commission's Agriculture and Rural Development website (http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/consultations/organic/2013_en.htm).

The consultation, which ends on April 10, is part of a review of European policy on organic agriculture.

Noting that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered incompatible with organic farming, the survey asks participants whether they specifically buy organic products because they are "GMO-free" and whether consumers would put up with higher prices if it meant the accidental low-level presence of GMO in organic products was clearly labelled.

"Organic farming covers a relatively limited part of the EU's utilised agricultural area -- around five percent -- but the sector is driven by ever-increasing consumer demand," says the website.

"In the current economic downturn, will consumers continue to turn towards a more sustainable lifestyle and higher consumption of organic products?"

The initiative from the office of EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos aims to reignite the debate on growing genetically modified food inside the bloc.

The EU has so far approved the cultivation of just two types of genetically altered crops, the Amflora potato developed by German group BASF and MON810 maize developed by global seeds giant Monsanto -- though several member countries have banned the growing of this variety of corn.

The European Commission has yet to make a decision on allowing the proposed cultivation of six other strains of genetically modified corn and one type of GM soy.

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