Genetic engineering poses a serious threat to biodiversity and our own health. The real reason for GE development has not been to end world hunger but to increase the stranglehold multinational biotech companies already have on food production.
In China, GE cotton and papaya are already grown, and GE rice was on the brink of approval. This would have been a disaster: not only would it mean a gamble with the health of 1.3 billion people, it would have risked the integrity of China's ancient strains of rice.
What’s wrong with genetic engineering?
Genetic engineering (GE) enables scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally.
Greenpeace activists in a maize field in a region that has been contaminated by genetically engineered maize.
These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating natural organisms in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way.
Their release is 'genetic pollution' and is a major threat because GE foods cannot be recalled once released into the environment.
There have been many documented cases of GE crop contamination in the past decade or so. Once they are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong, if crops fail, human health risks are identified or the environment is harmed, they are impossible to recall.
We run the risk of forever altering nature's plants, with no way of going back.
Furthermore, it has not yet been proven that GE plants are safe for people to eat, especially in the long-term. The only assurances of safety come from the corporations that have a vested interest in selling the world their patented GE seeds. These assurances have no relation to what might happen if a person were to eat GE corn or rice for their entire life.
Under the precautionary principle, neither humans nor the environment should bear the grave threat of GE – which is supported only by the commercial interests of multinational corporations.
Learn more about the impact of GE on biodiversity.
China and GE crops
Currently papaya (in South China) and cotton are the only commercial GE crops in China. But China was also on the verge of approving GE rice – the main staple food eaten across this country of 1.3 billion.
Action against genetically engineered papaya
GE corn has already received biosafety certifications. All that's lacking are seed trials, registrations and production licences before they are able to go on the market. There are no further mandatory food and environmental safety studies.
And all strains of GE rice in China have foreign patents. That means that China would be putting the livelihood of millions of farmers – as well as the country's food security and food sovereignty – in the hands of multinational companies.
Learn more about the threat of GE rice.
Genetic engineering: Fact vs Fiction
We are told that GE crops will help feed the world's poor but according to the United Nations, we are already producing one and a half times the amount of food needed to provide everyone in the world with an adequate and nutritious diet.
The world does not need GE crops, which pose severe threats to the environment and people's health. Field experience shows that the introduction of GE crops often lead to the development of secondary pests and increased weed growth, which in turn leads to the continuous application of pesticides. Additionally, GE crops often are more susceptible to diseases and external stress such as hotter temperatures, and thus fail to increase yields, threatening food security and food sovereignty.
One million signatures from EU citizens against genetic engineering are incorporated in a 380-meter piece of 3D pavement art placed in front of the European Commission building.
GE industry driven by money
The majority of patents for genetically engineered plants are held by a few large multinational companies such as Monsanto. It is in the interest of these companies to rush GE crops through the approval process and onto the market.
Thus, they carry out their own safety tests, which they then use to persuade governments to accept as sufficient proof of the safety of GE foods for human consumption. Unfortunately, the studies done by GE companies have not undergone peer review – the mechanism by which the scientific community ensures that studies meet rigorous standards.
Greenpeace activists stage an action with banners against the GE industry, in the hall of the EU commission. The action speaks out against methods used by GE companies to lobby the EU law.
And even though consumers have rejected GE foods outright, the biotech companies and the governments that support them are still trying to force their inventions on us, purely for commercial gain.
But the long-term health effects of GE crops have not been properly researched and, by cross-pollinating with non-GE crops and wild plants, they replicate themselves and contaminate the environment with genetic pollution that is impossible to clean up.
Because of commercial interests, the public is being denied the right to know about GE ingredients in the food chain, and therefore losing the right to avoid them.
The simple truth is, we don't need GE technology.