Growing opposition to GM crops coincides with new Greenpeace report reviewing evidence of GM environmental risks, market failures, and increased pesticide use
By the end of today, all 19 government requests for bans of GM crop cultivation are expected to go unchallenged by biotech companies, paving the way for two thirds of the EU’s farmland and population to remain GM-free. The growing opposition to GM crops coincides with a new Greenpeace report reviewing evidence of GM environmental risks, market failures, and increased pesticide use.
According to information obtained from the Commission, biotech companies have so far accepted all requests for opt-out bans, except for Denmark, Luxembourg and Malta, for which the deadline expires today.
Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said, “Over the past 20 years, GM technology has only been taken up by a handful of countries for a handful of crops, so no wonder two thirds of Europe have decided to ban it. Where GM crops are grown, they lead to increased pesticide use and the entrenchment of industrial farming systems that in turn exacerbate hunger, malnutrition and climate change.”
Around 85 per cent of GM crops are cultivated in just four countries in the Americas (US, Brazil, Argentina and Canada), representing only three per cent of global agricultural land. The Greenpeace report – 20 years of failure – highlights the main problems associated with GM crops, including:
GM crops increase pesticide use - Practically all GM crops are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to withstand the spraying of certain herbicides. Pests and weeds are developing resistance to these toxins, creating new superbugs and superweeds. This leads farmers to use even more chemicals.
GM crops do not feed the world - Studies show that GM crops do no increase yields and can affect the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, representing a threat to food security.
There is no scientific consensus about the safety of GM crops - Despite the biotech industry’s attempts to reassure consumers about the safety of GM crops, over 300 independent scientists dispute these claims. Genetic engineering remains a risky technology that can trigger unintended and irreversible impacts on the environment and human health.
While GM crops struggle to live up to the claims of the biotech industry, innovative sustainable farming methods offer a viable alternative. Modern ecological farming practices are a proven and sustainable solution to the challenges facing farming. They prevent soil erosion and degradation, increase soil fertility, conserve water quality and protect biodiversity. Moreover, scientific evidence shows that growing different crops and single crop varieties in one field, as is done in ecological farming, is highly reliable in increasing resilience to erratic weather changes.
Similarly, modern biotechnology, like Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), can produce crops which resist floods, droughts and diseases and presents limited safety concerns compared to GM crops. MAS is also faster than GM in delivering new crops onto the market. However, these alternatives will continue to be ignored if we get locked in the GM-industrial agriculture system, says Greenpeace.
 Greenpeace e. V. report, Twenty years of failure – why GM crops have failed to deliver on their promises, November 2015
 The European Commission’s list of notifications for national bans can be found here. The19 European countries that banned GM crops represent over two thirds of the EU’s population and arable land. Greenpeace press release on national bans, 1 October 2015.
 Quist, D.A., Heinemann, J.A., Myhr, A.I., Aslaksen, I. & Funtowicz, S., 2013. Ch. 19 in: European Environmental Agency (EEA), Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. EEA Report no 1/2013 pp. 458-485.
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Source: Greenpeace press release, 5 Nov 2015