European Commission could open GM pandora’s box

GM cropsBy
The Guardian – The European Commission will soon decide whether to approve 26 genetically engineered crops for cultivation on European soil; 19 of which are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. The decision could irreparably affect farmers, the environment and the way food is produced in Europe.
So drastic is the outlook that we need to call on the European Commission not to open this Pandora’s box. Here’s why.
Currently, less than 1% of European crop soil is used for genetically engineered crops. Getting herbicide tolerant genetically engineered (HTGE) crops approved for commercial use will give companies like Monsanto a vital and potentially devastating foothold in Europe. For a warning we can look to the devastation brought by the same herbicide tolerant crops on communities in the US and Argentina.
In October, Greenpeace commissioned agricultural economist Dr Charles Benbrook to examine the possible consequences of approving HTGE crops. Benbrook based his work on extensive US studies of where HTGE crops had been approved for commercial purposes since 1996. Since then they have assumed close to total domination. Focusing on HTGE corn, sugar beet and soya – the crops most likely to be authorised – the study predicts an increase in the use of glyphosate over a period of 14 years (2012-2025) of more than 800%.
Benbrook paints a grim picture for Europe: if EU farmers take up HTGE technology as quickly as US farmers did, glyphosate use in maize crops – the most important and widely grown crop in Europe – will increase by more than 1,000% by 2025 over current use, and total herbicide use will double. This is because HTGE crops are followed by glyphosate resistant weeds, which leads to an increase in the amount of herbicides used to tackle them.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that was first marketed by Monsanto under the name Roundup in the 1970s. Numerous companies now produce glyphosate under different trade names. Twenty years after the herbicide came onto the market, Monsanto developed genetically-engineered plants (Roundup Ready plants) that are resistant to glyphosate, and therefore allow a wider application of the herbicide, in order to deal with the unwanted weeds. While the plants may be glyphosate resistant the wider environment is not.
Benbrook’s work also incorporated evidence from Wendel Lutz and Wes Shoemyer, two American farmers featured in the recently released Greenpeace documentary Growing Doubt. In the documentary, farming communities describe how herbicide tolerant crops have affected their economy, environment and communities.
The documentary’s protagonists, Luts and Shoemyer, are currently touring Europe to warn their European colleagues about the consequences of adopting HTGE and repeating their mistake. Their 18-day Greenpeace-sponsored tour started in Warsaw on 22 October and will end in Brussels with a presentation of Benbrook’s forecast study on Wednesday 7 November.
If we are to learn anything from the experiences of the American farmers, European farmers can expect inflated seed prices, more expenses for buying much more pesticides and the heavy labour and increasing costs trying to get rid of resistant weeds that inevitably follow HTGE crops.
Where there are HTGE crops, farmers struggle, communities suffer and food costs increase. The effects ripple out across rural communities and onto our supermarket shelves.
When farming with GE seeds, farmers will have to buy seeds every year according to contracts with seeds manufacturers. In the US, Monsanto has sued a number of farmers for breaches of such contracts. The problem is not only in the inability of farmers to keep and replant their seeds, but also the continually increasing costs associated with GE seeds and, as is the case in some places in the US, the lack of availability of conventional seeds.
The European Commission must reject HTGE. It must support farmers and the environment and protect constituents rather than fold to the heavy handed lobbying tactics of the agroindustry.
 
Source and Photo: The Guardian, November 7th 2012
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One response to “European Commission could open GM pandora’s box

  1. The cultivation of GM crops should be prevented.

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