A story in today’s UK newspaper The Guardian, tells how a leaked document has exposed a major #fail by the European biotech industry association. EuropaBio is really clutching at straws by preparing an outreach program to change European consumers’ minds on genetically engineered food (GE food) – by blaming them for world hunger.
In the leaked EuropaBio documents – available on The Guardian website, EuropaBio insinuates that European consumers stand in the way of genetic engineering providing solutions to alleviate climate change, the improvement of food supply and security and achieving sustainable agriculture. What it really means, of course, is that European citizens are to blame for keeping biotech companies out of a profitable market, where control over food production is moved from the hands of farmers to the pockets of the industry.
As a matter of fact, EuropaBio is right about the opposition to genetic engineering - the majority of Europeans, 60%, are against development of GE food in Europe. (According to the Eurobarometer on Biotechnology 2010). But to blame that majority for holding back agricultural development in Africa and elsewhere is a cynical ploy from an industry thinking only of its bottom line and future profits.
The Guardian article reports that to assist in its mind-changing game, EuropaBio has attempted to recruit several high profile ’ambassadors’ who have credibility with European citizens, such as Bob Geldof, Kofi Annan and Lord Chris Patten, who could convince Europeans that genetically engineered food is the way forward. The Guardian journalist, John Vidal, contacted several of the 'ambassadors' that the EuropaBio documents mentions as 'having shown interest' – yet apparently none of them have agreed to work with EuropaBio at all.
The European biotech industry has spent several years battling against opposition from amongst European policy makers and by those ‘difficult’ citizens who insist on keeping their food free from genetically engineered organisms. Rightly so. The way EuropaBio sees it, European opposition stands in the way of its own international expansion; the industry likes to dress this as Europeans inhibiting the uptake of agricultural innovation in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where GE technology holds the most financial promise.
The 7 billionth baby is soon to be born into the world. Let’s welcome the baby by giving it the possibility of having a future free of genetic engineering and a future where industry does not stand in the way of ecological farming.
Genetically engineered crops will not solve hunger in Africa, nor the rest of the world. Hunger is a political travesty, not a technical problem. Over a billion people on our earth go hungry right now. They need to be able to produce food and feed themselves without relying on multinational corporations providing them with seed or chemicals. Ecological farming methods can provide food for all.
Achieving sustainable agriculture – and by that we mean ecological farming - in Europe and in the rest of the world is entirely possible without genetic engineering. There is enough food for everyone and there will be also in the future if only food production remains in the hands the farmers. Farmers can feed the world without technical fixes.
Ecological farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food today and tomorrow, by protecting soil, water and climate. It promotes biodiversity and does not contaminate the environment with harmful chemical inputs.
While scientific progress has great potential to increase our understanding of nature and the environment, it should not be used as justification to turn our Earth into a giant experiment driven by commercial interests. Agricultural systems driven by genetic engineering technology are discredited, threaten crop biodiversity, and pose potential risks to human health and the environment. In comparison, ecological farming has a proven track record of being able to ensure food security and high yields under multiple and diverse stresses (like diseases, pests and droughts), while genetically engineered crops have failed.
The ability to feed ourselves and our children is too important to gamble with. Greenpeace chooses ecological farming as a safe and viable option for everyone right now. The integrity of the world's food supply is too important to our survival to be put at risk.
More about Greenpeace's work on sustainable agriculture
Photograph: 1 Million EU Citizens against GMO Crops. Avaaz and Greenpeace deliver the first European Citizens' Initiative to EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli signed by over 1 million European citizens. The initiative called on the Commission to ban genetically modified (GM) crops until a new independent, ethical, scientific body is established to assess their impact, 9th December 2011.