Austria is the fiercest critic of agri-biotechnology in the European Union. Opponents of the technology can be found in all relevant societal fractions. The dismissive attitude of many Austrians is based on the assumption that coexistence between different agricultural systems is all but impossible due to the small field sizes and the high proportion of organic farmers.
The Austrian Government and the nine state governments have a critical stance on genetic engineering. The Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), for example, initiated the Austrian charta on freedom from genetic engineering. The initiative aims to keep foods GM-free. Two central demands of the charta are clear co-existence and liability regulations.
All Austrian political parties are opposed to GMO cultivation. The ÖVP aims at keeping Austria as free from GMOs as possible under the European legislation on GMOs. The Greens and the SPÖ share this view, but both parties go one step further by demanding a national import ban on genetically modified maize and rapeseed. The FPÖ wants a national ban on all GMOs.
Of all consumers in the European Union, the Austrians take the most wary of genetic engineering. The Eurobarometer 2005 biotechnology survey found that no other EU Member State has a higher proportion of consumers that strictly refuse to buy foods with genetically modified ingredients. According to the survey, Austria is the only European country where the opposition to GMO usage increased between 1999 and 2005.
The Austrian Farmers Association, the largest agricultural organisation in the country, is also critical of genetic engineering. The Farmers Association supports political calls for strict co-existence regulations and liability rules. The organisation does not expect to see a significant number of GMO plantings in the future. However, the Farmers Association accepts that the cultivation of GM crops can offer economic advantages to farmers.
Due to consumers' reluctance to buy GM foods, there are only very few GM products available. Many supermarket chains explicitly reject GMO labelled foods. The feed industry, however, sells feed containing GMOs. Austria is a net importer of high-protein feeds, including genetically modified soy. But Austrian dairy companies like Kärtnermilch or NÖM mainly sell dairy products from cows fed on non-GM feedstuff. To this purpose farmers use GM-free soybean meal imported from Brazil or replace it by other feeds.
Organisations opposed to GMOs, consumers, political parties, and agricultural organisations widely agree in rejecting agri-biotechnology. Greenpeace criticises the use of genetically modified soy in animal feeds and leads a campaign against the application of these feeds in Austrian agriculture.