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

 

New EU law grants countries right to ban GM crops but leaves them exposed to industry...

Press release | December 4, 2014 at 8:12

Brussels – At the end of a late-night round of negotiations, national governments agreed on a new EU law to provide countries the right to ban GM crops in their territory. However, the agreed text delivers less than it promises, as it prevents...

Parliament votes to give European countries legally solid right to ban GM cultivation

Press release | November 11, 2014 at 8:59

Brussels - The European Parliament voted today on a new law on national bans of genetically modified (GM) crops. The Parliament’s environment committee voted to amend the position agreed last June by ministers [1], which, according to Greenpeace,...

Concerns remain over Juncker Commission’s commitment to environment

Press release | October 22, 2014 at 14:17

With today’s vote by the European Parliament a new political phase begins in the European Union. The Green 10 alliance of leading environmental organisations calls on President Juncker and his team of Commissioners to give European citizens, and...

Commissioner Hearings 2014: Andriukaitis voices commitment to protect Europeans’...

Press release | September 30, 2014 at 12:32

Brussels - Commenting on today’s hearing of commissioner candidate for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director said: “This wasn’t a bad performance. He showed his commitment to...

Environment and fisheries candidate Vella fails to convince

Press release | September 29, 2014 at 16:24

Brussels --- The first of the commissioners’ hearings scheduled over the next two weeks, Karmenu Vella’s performance today raised concerns about the ability of president Juncker’s Commission to play its institutional role of safeguarding...

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