While more consumers in the United States seem to be demanding labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods, or crops with altered genetic codes including adding bacteria or roundup, the European Union (EU) seems to be moving toward accepting GM foods.
- The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected a French ban of genetically modified corn and in 2012 fast-tracked Monsanto’s Intacta GMO soybean in food and feed and declared the soy “substantially equivalent to the natural bean” with no research or allergy testing required.
- In March 2013, the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences said in a report that “GM plants could contribute to an agriculture that is both profitable and advantageous for the environment in Switzerland.”
- Spain grows large fields of GM products and is in the top 20 GM-growing countries worldwide.
- In 2012, Great Britain’s government requested that the EU make it easier to grow GMOs.
- The $425 million study of 25 years from over 500 independent groups in 130 research projects called “A Decade of EU Funded GMO Research” concluded that biotechnology, particularly GMOs, are “not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”
- European scientists are becoming more vocal. In July 2012, the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisor Anne Glover, stated “There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food.”
- Although the EU countries of France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece banned GMOs under the 2004 Safeguard Clause, the EU Court of Justice Advocate General, Paolo Mengozzi, ruled that only the EU can institute such bans.
- Several varieties of GM soy, corn, cotton, potato, sugar beet, and canola (rape seed) have been approved for planting and use in the EU and Monsanto’s MON810 corn and the BASF’s Amflora potato are being planted, with dozens of GMO crops imported into Europe. Granted, the GM potato is not for consumption but is for industrial purposes for paper production. Greenpeace’s EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero did say that since the gene confers resistance to certain antibiotics, “It could raise bacterial resistance to life-saving medicines, including drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis. This is an unacceptable risk to human and animal health as well as to the environment.”
- Some of the largest biotech groups in the world are in Europe such as GSK Biologicals, headquartered near Brussels and supplying about 25 percent of the world’s vaccines. Willy De Greef, secretary general for Europabio, a biotech lobby, said “We have a lot of catching up to do. While the U.S., Brazil, India and China have forged ahead in genetic engineering, we have lost a generation of good scientists.”
- Jo Swinnen, senior fellow with the Center for European Policy studies, said “European public opinion on GMOs was shaken two years ago with the food crisis, when prices spiked wildly and there were riots around the world. People thought there would always be food surpluses and low prices. But that can’t be assumed anymore.” GMO drought-resistant crops are being touted as a possible solution to the world population growth of 9 billion by 2050, requiring 70 percent more food globally to feed all those people.
- Gaia Health said in a November 2012 article, The Myth of a GMO-Free European Union, “Genetic engineering is on the verge of becoming as rampant in the EU as it is in the US…The reality is that the EU is rapidly becoming GM-friendly…If there was any doubt before today about the EU’s intentions, surely there cannot be any now. It’s full speed ahead for GM crops in the EU.”
Despite this acceptance of GMOs surfacing in Europe, there have been no polls showing that the citizens are changing their opinions. In a 2011 poll, 60 percent thought GMOs were a threat to public health. Many groups are still opposing GMOs and there remains the updated chart of regions designated as GMO-free zones in EU countries.