GME: Genetically Modified Europe? Not likely

© Kathryn Darvill Photography

They’re key in the battle against pesticides, integral to the future of edible pharmaceuticals and might provide an answer to the world’s growing problem of human overpopulation. The potential of genetically modified (GM) crops is vast, but it seems that the European Union (EU) needs more convincing before it jumps on the genetically modified bandwagon.

There are just two GM crops that have previously been approved for cultivation by EU commission and it seems there might be, just might be room for another. Later this month the EU will vote to decide if a licence should be granted for the growth of a GM variety of maize. If approved, the insect-resistant maize will be the first GM crop authorised by the EU for 15 years. A feat which Environment minister, Owen Paterson is not proud of.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference held on January 6th, Mr Paterson expressed his frustration with EU’s insistence against GM crops: “the longer that Europe continues to close its doors to GM, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether”. Mr Paterson, who advocates the use of GM crops to be both safe and necessary, warned that Europe is in danger of “becoming the Museum of World Farming as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets”.

If Europe’s past experiences with the GM industry are anything to go by then it seems Mr Paterson might be fighting a losing battle. In 2012 the GM company BASF abandoned its attempts to break into the European market and announced plans to focus on building business relations in the Americas and Asia. BASF’s product, the GM Amflora Potato plant was intended for industrial application; the plant had been modified to produce amylopectin, a starch particularly useful in papermaking. Even with official approval from the EU the plant faced widespread disapproval.

The case for the Amflora plant was exacerbated on December 13th 2013, when Europe’s General Court invalidated a decision to sell the crop on the European market. The second-highest court gave the ruling following a failure to correctly submit a European Food Safety Authority report on the Amflora plant. Although the plant had not been sold in Europe since 2012 the decision moves Europe one-step further from Mr Paterson’s ideal.

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6 Comments

    • The issue of GMO and use of products derived from them is indeed very controversial. Members of the European Parliament have recently called on the commission not to approve the sale of a Gm variety of maize known as Pioneer 1507, on the EU market. It will be interesting to see what the European Union will decide regarding their future sale on the market.

      Thanks for the comment George, much appreciated. SBS

  1. Every domesticated crop is genetically modified – it’s just traditionally done with no oversight by farmers sticking stamens they like into blossoms they like.

    I honestly don’t understand the controversy. This seems a lot like the anti-vaxxer movement although nowhere near as harmful.

    • Since agriculture began there has been an understandable eagerness to alter and enhance the qualities and quantities of crops. It began with selective breeding, where plants were bred with the purpose of increasing the expression of desirable traits. Developments in technology and our understanding have enabled the cultivation of Gm crops, which are already widespread in todays society. There is much controversy over the use of Gm crops, but unlike the anti-vaxxor movement the arguments for and against the use of these crops are (for the most past) scientifically-based. It is regrettable that even today people are refusing potentially life saving vaccinations based on the misinformed assumption that they are harmful.
      Thanks for your comment, it is much appreciated. SBS

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