EUROPE will increase its genetically modified (GMO) crop area by 50,000-100,000 hectares a year over the next decade, US biotech giant Monsanto has said.
"It will be slow but within ten years GMOs will have reached the point of no return," said Jean-Michel Duhamel, Monsanto's director for southern Europe.
"The technology will not impose itself on consumers but consumers will better understand the usefulness of GMO technology as farmers increasingly adopt it," he added.
In France, the world's largest seed maker, GMO maize - the only biotech crop allowed in the country - was expected to be grown on 600,000 hectares in ten years, against 25,000 in 2007, despite fierce opposition to GMOs in the country.
"It is more complicated in France than elsewhere but if we reach a 50 per cent rise (in area) per year it wouldn't be bad, as at world level we expect it to rise 20 per cent," Duhamel said.
French consumers are well known for their scepticism, if not hostility, to GMO crops. "Within the next few years there will likely be some turbulence," Duhamel said. "Consumers receive false information on what GMO crops are so they are afraid. But I'm sure that within ten years they will have accepted them."
This year, French farmers have sown 25,000 hectares of special maize, which has been modified to resist insect pests.