Genetic engineering enables scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating non-"GE" environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way.
To protect the environment and human health from the risks of GMOs, Greenpeace has campaigned to stop their release into our environment since 1995. We scored a big win in 2000 when the Biosafety Protocol was adopted in Montreal, Canada. This agreement mandates that countries take precautionary measures to prevent GMOs from causing harm to biodiversity and human health.
Sadly, the United States, Argentina and Canada - the very countries that produce some 90 percent of GE crops in the world - have not ratified the Protocol, and are actively working to undermine it.
The Biosafety Protocol is a step in the right direction. However, much more needs to be done. Since the Protocol came into effect, we have also been working to get countries to ban GMOs altogether and have been campaigning against the practices of the GE companies. Our victories include:
- Directly following the agreement an ever-increasing and significant number of European retailers, food producers, and subsidiaries of multinational companies guaranteed to keep genetically engineered ingredients out of their products due to consumer pressure. Thanks to its consumer networks in 15 countries, Greenpeace tested products, collected information about food products and policies and exposed contamination cases.
- In 2004, following the controversial UK government approval of genetically engineered maize for commercial planting, the only company authorized to grow GE maize withdrew its application.
- Also in 2004, Bayer conceded to Greenpeace India that all of its projects on genetically engineered crops have been discontinued. This announcement followed actions by Greenpeace outside Bayer's head office in Mumbai.
- In 2005, Swiss voters voted no in a referendum to determine whether genetically engineered crops and animals can be grown in their country during the next five years.
Greenpeace believes that biological diversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival. We continue to work with governments to get rid of genetic engineering once and for all.