NEW REPORT: GM crop cultivation nosedives across Europe

22 February 2011

Cracks widen in biotech industry myths

Brussels, Montevideo, Benin City, February 22, 2011 – On the day of the release of annual industry-sponsored figures, a new report from Friends of the Earth International reveals that the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops across Europe continues to decline – with an increasing number of national bans, and decreasing numbers of hectares dedicated to GM crops [1].

The report, 'Who Benefits from GM Crops?', reveals that less than 0.06% of European fields are planted with GM crops – a decline of 23% since 2008. Seven member states uphold bans on Monsanto's GM maize due to growing evidence of its negative environmental impacts. Three countries have banned BASFs GM potato due to health concerns, immediately after its authorisation in spring 2010, and for the first time five member states have sued the European Commission over the authorisation of a GM crop [2]. Public opposition to GM food and feed has increased to 61% Europe wide [3].

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The widespread opposition to genetically modified crops and foods in Europe continues to rise because consumers and farmers can see that they offer no added value and only additional environmental and health risks.

GM crops will hinder not help our challenge of ensuring we can feed our global population with safe and healthy food."

Globally, the research highlights how even pro-GM Governments in South America have been forced to take steps to mitigate the negative impacts of GM crops on famers, citizens and the environment.

The Brazilian Government has launched a GMO free soy programme to help farmers' access non-GMO soy seeds. In Argentina new research has exposed how the herbicide Glyphosate, used on the majority of GM crops grown worldwide, could have severe negative impacts on human health [4]. This has led to bans on spraying of the herbicide near people's homes. In Uruguay, local areas are declaring themselves GM-free.

Martin Drago, food sovereignty coordinator for Friends of the Earth International said: "Farmers and citizens in South America are bearing the burden of ten years of GM crops with widespread health disasters and rising costs. The myths on which the biotech industry is built are crumbling.

The havoc wreaked across South America shows that this technology is not fit for purpose. It is a wake up call for the rest of the world to move towards more ecological methods of farming."

'Who Benefits from GM crops? An industry built on myths' also finds that:

  • A new generation of GM crops designed to promote the use of hazardous pesticides Dicamba and 2,4 D are set for release in the US. Biotech companies are promoting these as a solution to the failure of existing GM crops to control weeds and reduce pesticide use.
  • Biotech companies, aided by the US Government are now looking to new markets in Africa in an attempt to rescue their business. The Gates foundation, which funds billions of dollars worth of agriculture projects in Africa has bought shares in Monsanto, giving it a direct interest in maximising the profits of GM companies rather than protecting the interests of small holders in Africa.

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NOTES:

[1] http://www.foei.org/en/who-benefits-from-gm-crops-2011

[2] Who_benefits? An industry built on myths

[3] European Commission (2010), Eurobarometer: Biotechnology Report, October 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf

[4] Paganelli, A et al. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling, Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2010, 23 (10), pp 1586–1595, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749