General Situation of GM crops in Portugal
Pilot survey conducted by the Conservation Agriculture Association (APOSOLO, Portugal, www.aposolo.pt)
Agriculture accounts for 2.5 per cent of GDP and employs 11.7 per cent of the workforce. Despite its overall importance to the economy, Portugal’s agricultural productivity remains lower than the EU average due to low sector investment, and limited adoption of new farming technologies and fertilizer usage. Crop production has also been impacted by severe drought in past years.
Olives (250 200 ha); grapes (181 200 ha); maize (95 700); wheat (60 400 ha); potatoes (25 800 ha). A combination of abiotic (e.g., recurrent droughts) and biotic stresses (e.g., a range of insect pests and fungal diseases that affect olive and grape production) result in heavy yield losses and increased pesticide use.
Ongoing research on key agricultural crops focuses on in vitro propagation and marker-assisted selection to address production constraints. GM approaches are very limited. This is reflected in a very low number of experimental field trials for GM crops in recent years, which are predominantly carried out by the international private sector.
Insect-resistant GM maize is approved for commercial cultivation since 1999. Portugal’s legal framework follows the relevant EU Directives, including those on labeling and traceability. In addition, there are detailed technical requirements for farmers producing GM crops, including mandatory notification of the State and adjacent farmers, and completing mandatory training. Autonomous regions, such as Madeira, have declared themselves “GMO-free”.
Experiences of farmers
Insect-resistant GM maize is grown in around 7 900 ha in 2011, compared to around 4 900 ha in 2010. The increased adoption is due to a higher overall maize area and severe corn borer attacks in previous growing seasons. GM maize farmers generally experienced higher crop yields and increased incomes per hectare. Farmers’ associations do not have a common position on GM cultivation. The Portuguese Farmer Confederation tends to support GM technology, while the National Confederation of Agriculture has a clear position against GM crops.