The European laws have been somewhat effective in protection the European soil from the invasion of patented transgenic crops. The ban on cultivation was introduced in 1998, but in 2004 the European Commission approved for cultivation the first GM crop, that is Monsanto’s MON810 corn, which is now grown in Spain, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Portugal. The second transgenic crop BASF’s potato Amflora experienced a total fiasco and is no longer cultivated. In February 2014, the Commission approved Pioneer’s corn TC 1507 regardless the fact that 19 member countries voted against and only 4 voted for the approval!
Biotech companies have been trying for long to penetrate the European fortress, usually emphasizing that after the opening of Europe they will be able to conquer all other world markets, and that the European rejection based on the precautionary principle – they like to call it “perception” is in contradiction with scientific facts. According to biotech corporations the precautionary principle “undermines the scientific evaluation of GMO products and the credibility of the system”. Years of biotech lobbying has led to gradual changes at EU level that could soon change the status quo favoring the cultivation of transgenic crops.
At a meeting held in Luxembourg on 12 June 2014, the environmental ministers of the Council of the European Union reached a political compromise favoring a proposal to amend Directive 2001/18/EC which regulates the deliberate release of GMO’s into the environment. All ministers voted in favor, except Belgium and Luxembourg which abstained on the vote. We can only assume that the environment and human health are certainly not the strong point of this his people who after all vote for the deliberate release of GMO’s into the environment. Let’s quote David Suzuki, Canadian academic, geneticist and environmentalist:
Politicians and scientists who tell you that these (GMO) products are safe – are either very stupid or are lying.
According to the proposal, member states are given the power to decide on the restriction or prohibition of the cultivation of GMOs on their territory, while the European Commission reserves the right to approve the GM crop at EU level on the basis of scientific assessment. The aim of the proposal is to liberalize or FACILITATE the process of approving GMOs. Extremely pro-GMO governments such as the British government under the leadership of Minister Owen Paterson welcomed the proposal, but Scotland and Wales were against. The French and Germans are hoping that the proposal will strengthen their national ban.
Political, democratic and legally flawed proposal
The biggest flaw of this proposal is the equalization of EU member countries with biotech corporations. Legitimately elected governments that are obliged to work for citizens are thrown in the same basket with multinational companies managements that work only – for profit. Biotech companies will thus receive an unprecedented power because their interests are put ahead of national interests of democratically elected governments. Sovereign states and private companies will be treated as equal entities. At first glance the decision increases democracy but in fact belittles democratic rights of each member country, and entitles GMO industry to policymaking. If a government wants to prohibit GMO cultivation in their country, it shall begin negotiations with biotech corporations supervised by the European Commission. If the member state does not comply with the biotech request to adjust geographical scope within 30 days it will be considered that it tacitly agrees to the cultivation of GMOs.
Member States which refuse cultivation of GMOs will remain without legal shield of the common EU legislation and will have to confront mutinationals themselves and deal with the risks of their decisions. The Biotech corporations may decide to challenge the legitimacy of the governments refusal to grow GMOs on their territory at any time, and the disputes will be brought to courts or settled through international trade agreements (WTO). Once GMOs enter the Member States it will be no longer a health and environmental issue but it will become an international trade issue. Also, when the European Commission authorizes the crop at EU level that means the crop is deemed safe for farming, the environment, human and animal health. Any dissenting opinion of scientists and politicians from Member States will no longer be legally plausible.
The Member state that wants to restrict GMO cultivation on its territory has limited action power because it can use arguments that are already prepared in a short list, and include: environmental and agricultural policy objectives, town and country planning, land use, socioeconomic impacts, avoidance of GMO presence in other products or public policy. Legal experts say that any restriction based on these grounds is only a theoretical restriction and that all the items from the prepared list are legally uncertain and will not hold water in court. If by any chance the Member state wins the litigation it is very likely that it will pay a compensation for future loss of profit to the biotech corporation.
Therefore this proposal deprives citizens of their will and gives an incredible power to multinational biotech companies that can bring whole countries to courts. And this is already happening: at the end of 2013 BASF, Bayer and Syngenta sued the European Commission for the two year ban of their bee killing pesticides. The Australian company OceanaGold sued El Salvador, a small Latin American country because it does not want to authorize future mining in order to protect its valuable environment and drinking water supplies. EU political representatives and the United States are currently negotiating details of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which “harmonizes” legislation between the two entities, and will also allow corporations to sue governments and deregulate the market. If a European Member state changes it’s legislation, the corporation will be able to sue that State on the basis of future profit reduction. For example a corporation like Monsanto can use TTIP to sue EU and can seek for millions of dollars in damages because the cultivation ban becomes a trade barrier and leads to decreased profits. Knowing that, it does not come to surprise that the European Commission proposal elegantly throws the hot potato in Member states hands so to speak: the EC hopes that the proposal will pass, and that Member states will decide for themselves the prohibition of GMO cultivation. The Commission could authorize virtually hundreds of GMOs at the EU level, but restrictions will be managed at Member state level and the Commission thus avoids problems with TTIP implementation.
Another important fact that constantly eludes politicians is that Mother Nature knows no country borders. There are numerous examples of GM crops spread in neighboring fields, regions and countries. After the US began intensive planting of GM maize, the pristine mountains of Mexico, areas that preserve the original genetic structure of corn, were genetically contaminated. The causes were probably deliberate import of unlabeled GM maize seeds, unintentional seed mixing as well as pollen drift with accidental cross-pollination. Also, future genetic contamination of seeds, animal feed and human food is very likely to happen. The whole organic agriculture is threatened for two main reasons, one being pollen cross-contamination and the second being the use of huge amounts of chemicals in GM fields, which also do not know for field borders, regions and countries, but are carried outward through groundwater and rainwater. Just one example, every spring a “dead zone” devoid of fish and other aquatic life (area up to 10.000-21.000 km2) develops in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. It is caused by chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) arriving from the northern states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio, carried by the Mississippi River.
In environmental law the polluter pays principle is enacted to make the party responsible for producing pollution responsible for paying for the damage done to the environment. If conventional and organic crops are contaminated by GMOs or chemicals that are used irresponsibly, who will compensate damages to farmers? The contamination from GM fields assumed grotesque proportions in the US, with an out-of-mind situation: biotech corporations regularly sue farmers for patent infringement because the GMO crops spread uncontrollably in the environment. No need to mention that farmers that grow conventional crops are unaware of the genetic contamination occurring in their fields up until they have to show up in court.
GM crops do not bring what they are advertised for: higher yields, resistance to drought, superior nutritional value and a solution for world hunger. Instead they bring costly chemicals, super-weeds and super-bugs resistant to herbicides and pesticides, and alarming facts from animal toxicological studies. The use of agrochemicals for GMO crops treatment is steadily increasing in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Regulatory agencies which should pay strict attention to peoples health are regularly raising the levels of chemical residues in food and feed protecting agribusiness.
Experts are asking the question of whether this proposal is a biotech, European Commission and pro-GMO governments attempt to bypass Member states that oppose GMOs, and thus a mean to accelerate the GMO approval process. It is interesting that the proposal does not mention anti-contamination measures and what happens after unwanted contamination – will the “polluter pays principle” be used or not?
Conflict of interest in Science
Our society is based on the idea that science helps us to make good, solid decisions. However, the conflict of interest has become the norm in almost all fields of science, and it is especially evident in chemical industry where pesticide manufacturers call themselves biotechnology companies and companies that specialize in genetics. Looking back, wee see that industry first created the business model that was then followed by supportive scientific evidence. The goal of this type of companies is to use science to promote their own agenda, which is selling the patented GMO seeds and chemicals.
All paperwork that must be submitted for authorization to regulatory agencies is funded and indeed comes from the chemical-biotech industry, and mostly it is not published in peer-reviewed journals. The results of these paperwork (can you really call them studies?) are predictable: the manufacturer who has invested considerable resources in development of GM plants has to submit papers that confirm the nutritional superiority, non-harmfulness and environmental neutrality of GMO plants – otherwise the crop will not be approved (and if the project fails, someone in the company will be forced to find a new job).
All studies that doubt the model of superiority, safety and substantial equivalence of GM crops are undermined and ignored. An example is the Seralini study published 2012 in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, where rats fed GMO corn developed massive mammary and kidney tumors and liver damage. In November 2013, Elsevier (the publisher) retracted the study for it’s “inconclusiveness”, regardless of the fact that the study was peer-reviewed by twice as many people than usual before publication, and that the study was intensively examined for one year after publication. The study was not retracted due to errors, deceiving, mis-interpretation of data, plagiarism or unethicality. The only reason for the retraction was that Seralini shook up the dogma which claims that GMOs and GM food is safe and nutritionally equivalent to conventional foods. No many people are aware that the study was peer-reviewed for the third time and republished in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe. This time with open access to raw experimental data (interestingly the industry never publishes or gives raw, unprocessed data to the regulatory agencies). The Seralini study confirms once again that GMOs act as hormone disruptors. Unfortunately, there are not so many independent studies and research because GM plants are patented and protected from any use that does not involve planting.
Second reading in the EP
The proposal to amend Directive 2001/18/EC which regulates the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment will be sent to the European Parliament for a second reading, which is scheduled for autumn 2014. Member of the European Parliament call can still stop this political game that may lead to unforeseen consequences for the environment and our health, and the health of our children. When Henry Kissinger said:
He who controls the food, controls the people
did he anticipate that someday multinationals will try to control food and it’s consumers with GMO patents?
What can you do – especially if you live in the EU?
Can you sit and wait for the outcome of this political game? Will you accept that someone else decides your future and puts at stake your children’s health?
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
The least you can do is to contact MEP sending emails or posting on their social network pages, and asking them to vote against the proposal to amend Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of GMO’s into the environment.
Tell them your opinion or copy-paste the message below:
The proposal for amendment of Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, which allows member states to decide whether they want to cultivation of GMOs will be presented in the EP this fall.
Please vote AGAINST the proposal because:
-equalizes corporations with Member states
-diminishes the democratic process and the people’s will of the Member states
-gives corporations the possibility to sue Member states which oppose the cultivation of GMOs
-Mother Nature knows no country borders, and GMO pollution happens anywhere in the world because there is not such a thing like coexistence of GMO with conventional crops
-GMO brings farmers impoverishment, expensive chemicals, super-bugs and super-weeds resistant to pesticides and herbicides, and worrying results from toxicological studies
-consumption of agrichemicals is increasing in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina since the introduction of GMOs
-the chemical residues in our food are constantly rising
-the science that supports GMOs is in conflict of interest, companies are using science to promote their own agenda, which is selling patented GMO seeds and agrichemicals, and these companies are generating profits at the expense of our health and the health of our children.
You can find here the list of Members of the European parliament with their contact emails.
Council fo the European Union, Brussels, 23 May 2014., document 9371/14
Council of the European Union, Luxembourg, 12 June 2014., document 10415/14
Corporate Europe Observatory: Biotech lobby’s fingerprints over new EU proposal to allow national GMO bans, 17.05.2014.
Reuters: EU member states back compromise to allow GM crops, reuters.com
The Ecologist: EU go-ahead for GMO crops, 12.06.2014., theecologist.org
FarmingUK: GM crops could be planted in the UK next year, 13.06.2014., farminguk.com