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EU proposes easing grain rules to help fight high prices

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Sept 13, 2007
The European Commission proposed Thursday to drop for a year rules obliging grain farmers not to plant all of their land to help combat spiralling prices for cereals like wheat.

"The Commission has today cut the rate of compulsory set-aside to zero percent for grain planted either now, in the autumn or next spring, in other words for next year's harvest," said farm spokesman Michael Mann.

In an effort to control overproduction, EU farmers have been obliged since 1992 to leave 10 percent of their land unplanted. Brussels estimates that dropping the rule could see 1.6 to 2.9 million hectares of extra land seeded.

"We don't have overproduction anymore, we have a shortage of grain so we have decided that this should be cut for one year only," Mann said. "We believe that this will help the market situation by perhaps adding as much as 17 million tonnes to European grain production next year."

EU farm ministers are expected to endorse the decision late this month.

"It's relatively urgent given that farmers have to start putting their seeds in the ground around about now," the spokesman said.

As part of a check on the EU's Common Agriculture Policy -- which allocates subsidies and sets the rules for the farm industry -- ministers will also debate in November whether the set-aside rule should be permanently dropped.

The wildlife federation BirdLife International immediately raised the alarm about the EU plans, warning they could threaten a precious habitat for thousands of birds and other animals.

"Set-aside land provides an important refuge for wildlife in areas of intensive agriculture," the conservation group said in a statement.

Across Europe, it said, larks and peewits use set-aside land for nesting, while yellowhammers and buntings rely on it for food. In France, the land is also a vital habitat for the little bustard, an endangered species.

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Transgenic Maize Is More Susceptible To Aphids
Neuchatel, Switzerland (SPX) Sep 10, 2007
The environmental consequences of transgenic crops are the focus of numerous investigations, such as the one published in the journal PloS ONE, which was carried out by Cristina Faria and her colleagues, under the supervision of Ted Turlings, professor in chemical ecology at the University of Neuchatel. The researchers observed that most transgenic maize lines were significantly more susceptible to the aphid Rhopalosiphum maidis than their conventional equivalents.

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