20 July 2011 by Pelle Neroth
By an overwhelming majority vote, the EP has proposed a double lock against any new GM crop introduction. Even when the crop has been approved by the European Food Safety Standards Agency, which is hard enough in itself, individual nation states will be at full liberty to ban the new crop for, well, any "socioeconomic or political purposes" they choose to. Not that the EU is exactly overrun with GM crops.
While virtually all soya bean, cotton and corn grown in the United States is GM-modified, injected with pest or herbicide resistant genes, GM crops are banned in France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Austria.
And they are infrequent elsewhere in the EU: Only in Spain have they attained some measure of popularity: eighty percent of Europe's GM crops are grown there. And only one food crop has been given the green light, a type of maize called MON810, made by Monsanto. The EP vote has just made it even less likely they will be introduced to many European countries.
It won't technically affect the UK, or other countries that do want to pursue a growth policy, but it just adds to the general climate of hostility elsewhere. The National Farmer's Union was critical of the EU decision, saying in a press release:
"We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence.This stance could discourage scientific research and investment in the EU which are crucial for sustainable agriculture."
GM foods are not the panacea to the world's food problem. With the world's population set to be nine billion by 2050, the Royal Society has called for a "Second Green Revolution". If the Amazon is not to be cut down for intensive agriculture, there is going to have to be a realignment in food research priorities.
Drought resistant crops that use less water and provide higher yields, but also better science on basics such as how to improve mixed farming practices and maximising crop rotation advantages will also be required. Better road networks and funding agencies for farmers in Africa are another wish list item, as is political stability.
While GM technology does not increase yields, yet, new generations of GM crops, with their ability to resist pests, are part of the toolbox, though. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine recently did a survey of surveys and concluded that, of all the billions of people who have eaten GM modified foods - three quarters of US foodstuffs contain them - there has not been a single certified case of ill health resulting from it.
This hasn't stopped regular demonstrations by ecologically minded young activists in cities and farms of Europe, and outside the European parliament. So the MEPs are certainly going with the popular flow. But if leadership sometimes means doing the right thing against popular opinion, and communicating properly why, the Euro-politicians are not showing it.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Edited: 30 July 2011 at 03:19 PM by Pelle Neroth
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