Monday, February 11, 2008

France bans its only homegrown GM crop

I read an article today that made me feel hopeful. It's the old drop in the bucket, I know, but it's still good to see someone standing up to international agri-bullies. France has decided to ban its only genetically modified crop, the MON810 strain of corn introduced to them by the friendly folks at Monsanto. The corn is used for animal feed. A few weeks ago, when France first expressed its intentions to impose a ban, the US-based Biotechnology Industries Organisation (BIO) released a statement calling on the US government and European Union to jump into the fray to intervene. According to BIO:

"This continued moratorium will negatively impact French farmers, consumers, and the environment. Biotech crops have tremendous potential to reduce the environmental impact of farming. By growing biotech crops, farmers reduce pesticide applications and the consumption of fuel and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce the need for plowing to control weeds, which leads to better conservation of soil and water, and a decrease in soil erosion and compaction."

Ah... sure. However, according to Greenpeace,
all is not cut and dried concerning MON810's effectiveness, or its possible impact on the insects and organisms (either beneficial or harmful) that are exposed to it. Sale of the seed was banned in Germany earlier last year and this ban has since been lifted, albeit with regulations imposed to purportedly curtail the possibility of cross-contamination of GM crops with conventional crops. Since France took its stance on MON810, over 300 scientists and environmental groups in Spain (Europe's largest grower of GMOs) have come forward with a petition calling for a ban on the cultivation of all GMOs in Spain. The United States' government will likely attempt to retaliate against France with trade sanctions at the WTO level, which it did a few years back in response to Austria's ban on the cultivation and use of MON810. Austria still refuses to lift its ban.

The Organic Consumers Association has
a ton of information on GMOs in general, and on Monsanto, more specifically -- its products, its politics and its history. The one thing that is clear in all of this is that agribusiness has become less about consumerism and more about politics, where international trade regulations are now taking away the rights of elected governments to respond to the needs and concerns of their own people. What better way to circumvent consumers' rights to control what they eat than to force it into their stores and sneak it into their products?

As agribusiness continues to fight against the labelling of GMO products, this leaves consumers with the task of struggling to
educate themselves about where their food comes from, and whether the manufacturers producing it are using genetically modified ingredients. When it comes to choices, it seems that the only uncomplicated option now left to consumers that doesn't involve doing your homework first is to choose to purchase organic products.

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