Government okays major loosening of GM seed import regulations

Les Couloirs, Nov-2-2022

In a move eagerly anticipated by Laeral’s farmers’ lobby, the government announced a move towards legalizing a variety of genetically-modified (GM) crops in agriculture as soon as late 2023. Prime Minister Nicolas Martin, speaking with the press today, announced that the government would soon lift import restrictions on dozens of species of GM seeds, paving the way for widespread use of GM varieties on crops from soybeans to apples.

Although genetically-modified crops are popular abroad for their beneficial traits such as blight-resistance and increased yields, their adoption has thus far been limited in Laeral. Since 2014, their use in agriculture has been strictly limited due to a lengthy permitting process, even as farmers’ interest groups have claimed that GM crops would bolster their yields and safeguard Laeral’s food supply. “Without GM crops, we’re competing with one hand tied behind our back against foreign competitors,” says Samuel Zhu, who represents the Fabriards, an agricultural association, in Laeralsford.

Current regulations allow for the use of barely a dozen varieties of GM seeds in agriculture, yet estimates suggest that the proportion of certain feed crops grown using illicit GM seeds approaches 30%. Enforcement at the border is generally lax, and once illicit seeds are sown, only genetic sequencing can conclusively identify a crop as belonging to a restricted GM strain.

While scientists generally conclude that GM crops are safe and genetically-modified crops have been in use for decades, their adoption has been limited in Laeral thanks to public skepticism centered on the dangers of interfering with nature and unverified health risks. Beyond public opinion, nationalists and some on the left also fear dependence on seed varieties owned by multinational corporations; Laeralian firms hold only a minute footprint in agribusiness.

With elections fast approaching, President Liu is expected to tout the government’s move to open the floodgates to GM crops in her “Rural Communities Tour” over the next two weeks, aimed at shoring up the president’s support among agrarian voters. Her presumed chief rival, Laeralian People’s Party candidate Florian St. Marc, has yet to weigh in on the move, but Progressives have criticized the move as “irresponsible”, calling for further research on the potential ecological impact of widespread GM adoption.

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