Genetically modified or sustainable agriculture?

There are serious problems with genetically modified (GM) crops, notably health and environmental risks and growing corporate control of our food chain by a handful of companies. Despite this, and major public opposition, there is strong support for GM agriculture in the European Commission. Greenpeace campaigns to end GM agriculture in favour of better support for sustainable farming, the only genuine solution to food security and climate challenges.

GM crops – a bitter harvest

GM crops come with a stack of problems for farmers, consumers and society in general.

-They are inseparable from large-scale intensive farming and reliant on the heavy use of expensive chemicals and machinery. GM agriculture exacerbates food insecurity by degrading soils, polluting water and fuelling climate change.

-Despite decades of hype, no drought or flood-resistant GM crops have been brought to market. Instead, GM agriculture is characterised by monocultures of genetically identical plants that are the most vulnerable to climate and pest stresses.

-Poor farmers in developing countries can ill afford expensive GM agriculture and are vulnerable to falling into cycles of debt. On the other side of the coin, just six companies control almost all GM crops: Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF and Dupont. Together they also control three quarters of the agrochemical market, a massive degree of control over the food chain. Monsanto enforces its patents through a force of private investigators, suing farmers on the slightest suspicion.

-GM crops require pesticides that lead to the emergence of so-called ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’. Millions of American farms now have to use greater quantities and stronger chemicals to control these pests in a vicious circle. Besides this problem, intensive agriculture is by definition less biodiverse and pesticide-producing GM crops harm pests and beneficial insects alike.

-Perhaps most worrying, we do not know if GM crops are safe to eat. Independent long-term studies are severely lacking and GM companies have undue influence over research establishments which get much of their funding from corporations. The fact is genetic engineering is a random and imprecise technique. Scientists still understand little about how engineered genes interact and unexpected side effects are frequent. Once grown in the open environment, GM genes spread in an uncontrollable way.

 

GM technology poses a host of health risks, yet long-term safety testing is shunned.

The European picture

In March 2010, the European Commission broke a 12 year hiatus by approving the cultivation of antibiotic-resistant GM potato Amflora. More than 20 other GM crops are pending authorisation. According to official EU polls, 61 percent of Europeans are against the development of GM food in a trend of rejection that has continued to grow. Some countries have fought against further authorisations, in part because the European authorisation process is flawed, especially the risk assessment of GM crops carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In December 2008, all 27 environment ministers unanimously stated that risk assessment for GM crops must be strengthened. EFSA’s risk assessment remains insufficient. Instead, in July 2010, the Commission proposed giving governments a new right to ban cultivation of GM crops from their territory.

The latest updates

 

Entry into force of EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides...

Publication | November 28, 2013 at 13:00

Brussels - On 1 December 2013, the three neonicotinoid insecticides thiamethoxam (produced by Syngenta), imidacloprid and clothianidin (produced by Bayer), will be subject to a partial two-year ban in the European Union (EU). The insecticides are...

Green10 letter on Innovation in EU

Publication | October 17, 2013 at 15:22

A letter from the Green 10 to Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Bees in Decline

Publication | April 9, 2013 at 9:00

Bees in Decline

Report: Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union

Publication | January 17, 2013 at 9:00

European countries are ramping up biofuel use in an effort to meet their obligations under EU objectives to decarbonise energy in the transport sector. But green transport targets for 2020 in the renewable energy directive (RED) and fuel quality...

Briefing: Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union

Publication | January 17, 2013 at 9:00

Report on sustainable alternatives for land-based biofuels in the European Union: Briefing materials

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