Public rejection of GM affects biotech firms

PUBLIC resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops has ensured the area grown in Europe in 2011 remained at 0.1 per cent of all arable land, figures released today by Friends of the Earth Europe show.

In comparison, organic farming accounted for 3.7 per cent.

The figures follow recent announcements of the biotech industry retreating from parts of Europe.

Food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, Mute Schimpf, said: “The public’s rejection of GM crops has ensured that they are confined to small pockets of the European Union.

“Politicians need to listen to public opinion and throw their weight behind the demand for greener and safer farming. GM crops should play no role in the future of Europe’s farming.”

Last month the world’s biggest chemical company, BASF, announced it was halting the development and commercialisation of GM crops in Europe.

It said its decision was due to, ‘lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe – from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians’.

But ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications), said the outlook for GM indicated global growth.

Author of the annual biotech crop report, Clive James, said: “Unprecedented adoption rates are testimony to overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops by millions of farmers worldwide.

“Since biotech crop commercialisation in 1996, farmers in 29 countries worldwide made more than 100 million decisions to plant and replant more than 1.25 billion hectares - an area of crop land 25 per cent larger than the total land mass of the United States or China.”

ABC chairman Dr Julian Little added: “Today’s figures show how farmers in the developing world are choosing biotech crops as a way of increasing their incomes, boosting yields and reducing their impact on the environment. These results smash once and for all, the myth that agricultural biotechnology is just about large prairie farmers in North and South America. This is a technology that works for any type of farmer, big or small, resource–poor or technology-rich. 

Dr Andrea Graham from the NFU, said UK farmers were being put at a massive disadvantage.

“This impacts on their competitiveness in the global market whilst also preventing us from having the opportunity to explore the potential environmental benefits and other positive traits this technology can offer,” she said.

“We urgently need a science-based decision-making process on biotech crops in Europe to allow UK farmers to have access to this technology as part of their toolbox in meeting the challenges of the present and the future.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • The public would reject taxation given the choice!
    The irony is Europe doesn't reject GM it consumes millions of tonnes - if it did properly reject GM the price of food would rise and particularly the supply of protein would become more difficult.

    The european farmer looses out all ways, products are not properly labelled, there are no substantive trials and now commercial R & D has left europe. They have no choice in what they can grow and are asked to compete with one hand tied behind their back. You either ban GM and all products derived or you don't ban it and properly label, leaving it then down to choice.

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  • There should certainly be proper labelling for all GM derived products, including meat and dairy derived from GM animal feed. But it is clear that what the public would really like is a ban and I don't accept that the price would rise. Suppliers would just switch over to non-GM soy etc. and there is no evidence that that is any more expensive to produce than GM. The evidence clearly shows that it is traditional breeding and improvements in agricultural practices that can boost productivity, not GM, which has failed to yield.

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  • To address Mr. Temple's post, the real irony is that GMO have been commercialized in the US since 1996 and the US population, for the most part, is ignorant of their presence in our food supply. Combine this with the fact that there not a SINGLE published human health clinical study showing GMOs are safe and we have today's perfect storm of corporate-governmental deceit and corruption.

    Farmers have been roped into a very vulnerable position at the funnel end of an industrial supply chain. They are heavy equipment operators, chemical applicators and technology licensees. It ceased to be farming when the farmers actually quit having to walk thru their fields. Today everything is done prescriptively using GPS, chemical soil assays, and genetically manipulated seeds. It's not food. It's food processing raw material.

    It's a very uncomfortable situation for farmers and I don't envy them. They must come to terms with a new reality: the current system, despite all the industry's boastful claims to the contrary, is NOT sustainable.

    GMO education, full disclosure and labeling are paramount. Denying consumers these basic rights has been criminal. The entire GM industry is based upon lies ranging from claims of sameness (GM is the substantially equivalent to normal food) whilst the very same products are issued patents which only apply to "inventions" that are distinct and new. It can hardly be the same and distinct and new at the same time, yes!

    Farmers, communities and government, sans the bank-financers, must rethink the entire agri-system. It's impractical to be a commodity farmer without farming hundreds and hundreds of acres of monoculture crops. It's silly yet this is what we call normal.

    Food for nourishment hasn't been part of the equation for decades. Food is about convenience and enjoyment. Nourishment, not so much.

    It's time for people to reconnect with food, farming and farmers (non-GMO, non-chemical). We've lost touch and lost our way by ceding knowledge for comfort and ease in our most foundation needs: nourishing ourselves. Ceding this obligation to the multi-national corporations and governments has yielded a bitter harvest of GMO pesticide-containing food. It's insane to think this is normal for us here in the US and yet most people are totally unaware.

    This is a very important public conversation and I'm pleased to play a part.

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  • "....there not a SINGLE published human health clinical study showing GMOs are safe" writes Scott Smith. Of course there isn't, nor is there a SINGLE study of anything else to prove it is safe because "safety" is a negative concept meaning an absence of harm or danger; negative concepts cannot be proven. If he is uncomfortable with that idea, he might think of any study which has proved that, say, organic food - or indeed, any food - or any medicine is safe: that is, has sbsolutely no chance of causing harm or danger.

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