Is an extension of regulation allowing GM feed in Poland on the cards?

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Neydtstock
© GettyImages/Neydtstock
The Polish agriculture ministry has drafted an amendment to the 2006 Feed Act so that the ban on genetically modified (GM) feed ingredients, chiefly soybean meal, that was set to come into force at the end of this year, would be postponed until 2024.

The move was documented in a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Gains ​report.

The amendment in question, which also includes provisions to reduce and eventually eliminate imported soybean meal in favor of domestic alternative protein sources, had been released for publication consultation; that review process expired on April 21, 2018.

According to the USDA report, the Polish government said postponing the implementation of the ban on GM feed ingredients is necessary to increase domestic production capacity of alternative protein sources, citing a five-year transition period, through 2024. The US agency said the Polish government had proposed January 1 2019 as the date of entry for this amended legislation extending the use of GM ingredients in feed in the interim.

However, Anna Zymerman, secretary general of the Polish feed trade association, Izba Zbożowo-Paszowa, told FeedNavigator:

“At present, regulation allowing the use of GM feed materials in Poland expires at the end of 2018. We count on further extension, but it is difficult to predict the result at this moment.”

Like in some other European countries such as Germany, France and Austria, many Polish consumers react negatively toward GM products, and feeding animals GM feed is controversial in that market.

Background

Poland's 2006 Feed Act stipulates that GM derived feed ingredients, including soybean meal, are not allowed in that country, which runs contrary to EU law. Indeed, in October 2015, the European Parliament's environment committee rejected a proposal to allow individual member states to ban trade in and use of biotech food and animal feed, citing the EU's free movement of goods principle. 

The USDA said that, in practice, soybean meal has proved to be too essential for developing the country's livestock and poultry sectors and, as a result, the ban on the use of feed derived from GM raw materials has been postponed several times. Originally, it was set to be applied from 2008, but was delayed first until 2013 then again until 2017 due to strong opposition from Poland's livestock industry. The last amendment to the 2006 Feed Act moved the deadline for the ban’s entry into force to the end of 2018.

Poultry powerhouse

Sources told the USDA that forcing livestock producers to use domestic feed ingredients would reduce Polish poultry production and exports, and threaten the competitiveness of the Polish meat industry

Poland is currently the EU’s largest producer of poultry. It is also a major producer and exporter of pork.

Imported soybean meal is mainly used for the production of poultry feed, although the pork industry uses it as well.

In 2017, the Polish feed industry produced 7 MMT of poultry feed and 2.2 MMT of pig feed. Soybean meal is also mixed in for Polish cattle feed, albeit at a much lower level.

Feed protein shortage

Although the Polish agriculture ministry is looking to reduce soybean meal imports by 50% over the next five years, there is currently a shortage of feed protein in Poland.

Polish annual imports of soybean meal are currently over 2.0 MMT and it accounts for 80% of plant protein in Polish animal nutrition. Some 95% of the soybean meal used in the feed industry is derived from GE soybeans, as per USDA data.

Domestic production includes oil meals, mainly rapeseed meal, sunflower meal, and pulses. Domestic plant proteins currently account for only about 20% of livestock feed.  

Polish livestock and feed industries argue that soybean meal cannot be eliminated in Polish livestock diets due to its high nutritional value. They said there is little in the way of alternatives to imported GM soybean meal that would be economically-viable or nutritionally equivalent, according to the USDA report.

Domestic plant protein contains fewer amino acids and banning soybean meal would reduce nutritional quality of the feed and would increase the cost of production, said the stakeholders. The difference between the price of 1% of protein obtained from the imported soybean meal and from domestic plant protein is currently about PLN 12 (US$3.60), as per the USDA report.

The 2006 Feed Act, though, states that farmers will receive additional subsidies for legume production as a means to increase domestic protein sources. However, the USDA noted EU regulations prohibit increasing production subsidies beyond historical levels. I 

Local soybean production

The Polish government has been conducting research and development of domestic soybean varieties that can be grown in the Polish climate and would be profitable for farmers, said the US agency.

Poland participates in the Danube Soya Project, created by Danube Soya Organization, which aims at the cultivation of non-GM soy in Europe. The country’s Central Research Center for Cultivar Testing (COBORU) has been involved with that project since 2017. It studies which varieties of non-GM soybeans can be grown and in what areas. Some 28 soy varieties are scheduled to be tested in 30 different locations across Poland over the coming three years, according to the USDA publication.

Rapeseed cultivation

The USDA report also outlined out Polish scientists are also working on a wider use of rapeseed meal and DDGS in feed.

Poland is one of the EU’s biggest rapeseed producers and the country’s agriculture ministry is eager to increase rapeseed meal as a feed ingredient. The USDA said about half of Polish rapeseed meal is currently consumed domestically, with the other half mostly exported to Germany.

“Polish animal nutritional experts currently note that rapeseed meal’s viability as a livestock feed ingredient is limited, as it is less nutritious than soybean meal and contains more alkaloids. Rapeseed meal also requires the use of synthetic amino acids, which increases the costs.”

The US agency wrote that the Polish government is also actively considering insect protein, following the July 2017 EU regulation allowing insects to be used as an animal feed production.

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