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Why Does Europe Hate GM Food and Is It about to Change Its Mind?

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Paris - While the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and China and many other countries have warmly embraced genetically modified crops, Europe remains the world's big holdout.

Could this be about to change? New European Union rules now seek to clear up years of internal deadlock that could, in theory, lead to widespread cultivation of GM foods. But the fight is far from over.

The EU's great GM debate pits two powerful forces against each other: green campaigners concerned about the effect of the crops on health and the environment, and the agri-business lobby, which argues that Europe, by resisting a technology that boosts yields and rural incomes, is losing its place at the forefront of agricultural innovation.

Only five EU countries grow GM crops at all -- Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia -- and in such tiny quantities that they accounted for less than 0.1 percent of global GM cultivation last year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, which monitors the industry.

Europe's fragmented politics, diverse landscapes and smaller scale farming traditions have made it less compatible with the mass-farming techniques in the Americas and China. Only one type of modified crop - a herbicide-resistant maize - is approved for cultivation in the EU, compared to 96 commercial licenses granted in the United States since 1990, although Europe does import more than 30 million tonnes of GM grain for animal feed each year.

"Europe has perversely condemned itself to importing crops which its farmers could grow locally and banished thousands of bright scientists to other shores for reasons that are scientifically bogus," claims Brandon Mitchener, a Brussels spokesman for Monsanto, one of the US agribusinesses leading the push for GM crops.            


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