Organic carrots

Organic carrots. The future of agriculture is about ecological farming aligned with nature, not GE crops. © Greenpeace / Emma Stoner

On genetic engineering (GE), the good news just keeps coming in: German and US courts are speaking out against GE companies, and in favour of protective measures. Recent polling shows that the majority of Europeans opposed to GE keeps growing, and one million of them have already signed our petition. Oh, and did we mention the Vatican?    

In San Francisco last week, US district judge White couldn’t have been clearer. The GE seeds company Monsanto had illegally planted GE sugar-beet in Arizona and Oregon; the permits for it had been granted by the US Department of Agriculture in violation of an earlier ruling. The judge’s order: Up-root and destroy the whole lot of it!

The organic farmers who had launched the lawsuit were only right to ask for protection, the judge said. There was plenty of evidence for the "irreparable" consequences of cross-contamination from GE and they had made “a strong showing that they and the environment are likely to suffer irreparable harm if this court does not issue an injunction.”

So, an injunction he issued. Back in October, another US federal court slapped Monsanto’s rival Bayer for the alleged contamination of long-grain rice by the German company’s GE seeds. The lawsuit – also launched by farmers – followed six similar trials. Bayer lost all of them. The bill so far: $54 million US Dollars.

A German court, meanwhile, just shot down the attempt by one of the country’s federal states to water down the country’s GE laws. The state (Saxony Anhalt; supported by lawyers from Monsanto) argued that a public register that shows where GE crops are grown in the country was against the constitution. The Federal Constitutional Court disagreed – wholeheartedly.

And not just that. The court – the country’s highest legal authority – also publically acknowledged the unknown long-term risks of GE. In their decision, the judges said that “by deliberately altering genetic material, genetic engineering intervenes with the elementary structures of life. The implications of such an intervention can only be reversed with difficulty, if at all.” Indeed.

Of course, all this is completely in line with what the majority of Europeans are thinking: the latest Eurobarometer on Biotechnology poll shows that 61% of Europeans are opposed to the development of GE food in Europe, 70% believe that GE food is fundamentally unnatural,  59% think it is not safe for their health or that of their family, 58% believe it is not safe for future generations.

Getting a little desperate, perhaps, in the face of all that opposition, the pro-GE lobby’s latest attempt was to summon the Vatican as a voice support. The Pope for GE? Well, well. As it turned out, a group of scientists – of which only a tiny minority was from the pontifical academy – had published a study carefully praising GE. Following a few misleading headlines, the Vatican promptly issued a statement, saying that was not at all what it was thinking.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really: In 2008, the Catholic Church even considered listing GE as one of a number of new deadly sins it regards important in the age of “unstoppable globalisation” (a modern addition to the original seven mortal sins, as it were). That’s right: GE as an act that risks eternal damnation. As far as God is concerned, how much clearer can you get?

On Earth, though, the decisions are still taken by politicians. And they need to be told, again and again, what we citizens are thinking: One million Europeans have already signed a petition we’re running together with Avaaz. It’s an unprecedented EU-wide citizens’ initiative aimed at the European Commission that calls for a moratorium on GE crops.

If you haven’t done so already, add your voice now. The future of agriculture is about ecological farming aligned with nature. GE crops have no place in it.