When a warning comes loud and clear from someone who has lived through what can only be described as agricultural Armageddon, it’s usually a good idea to heed their advice.
This week Greenpeace has linked European farmers, decision makers and consumers with American famers and an agricultural scientist to give a picture of what we could expect if we follow the path of US and Argentinean agriculture.
And this is not a path you’d want to take.
Greenpeace commissioned renowned agricultural economist Dr. Charles Benbrook to produce the first ever forecast of how Europe would be impacted if the European Commission goes ahead with its plan to authorise the cultivation of so-called herbicide tolerant genetically engineered (HTGE) crops.
24 August 2012
Wendel Lutz is one of two American farmers featured in the Greenpeace film, 'Growing Doubt'
The forecast gathers eyewitness accounts from Wendel Lutz and Wes Shoemyer, two American farmers featured in our documentary Growing Doubt
filmed in Argentina and the US. Farming communities have talked to us about how herbicide tolerant crop monocultures have affected their economy, environment and society. And now the US farmers are travelling with Greenpeace on an 18 day tour of Europe, inviting farmers groups, local communities and national politicians at each stop to discuss their growing concerns about these threats.
Their message is clear: European agriculture will be irreparably damaged if HTGE is allowed to be cultivated.
So, who would actually benefit from HTGE crops?
Ecosystems and biodiversity will of course not benefit from having more agrochemicals sprayed on them.
If we are to learn anything from the experiences of our American visitors, many European farmers can expect inflated seed prices, more expenses for buying much more pesticides and the heavy labour and increasing cost trying to get rid of the resistant weeds that inevitably follow the HTGE crops . And those would be the lucky ones. A lot of farmers would simply cave in to the “big boys” who will be leading the farm consolidations that seem to follow the HTGE crops marching in.
Dr. Benbrook’s forecast paints an especially grim picture for Europe: if EU farmers take up HTGE technology as quickly as in the US, glyphosate use in maize crops - the most important and widely grown crop in Europe – will increase by over 1,000% by 2025 over current use, and total herbicide use will double.
Where there are HTGE crops, farmers seem struggle, communities suffer and costs increase. The effects ripple out across rural communities right up to our supermarket shelves.
It’s time to act.
We have to push the European Commission extra hard to ensure that HTGE crops aren’t given the green light for cultivation. Once we open the floodgates for HTGE there will be no turning back - the farmers we’ve spoken to in Argentina and the US can attest to this. In the words of Wes Shoemyer: “So far, the EU has stood very firm. It still has a chance to retain its independence, to retain its integrity.”
EU decision makers must decide: are they going to support the environment, farmers, consumers, and their constituents or are they going to support the agroindustry breathing down our necks?
We can see where the HTGE path leads and it’s not one we should be forced to follow.
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Lasse Bruun is a Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace International