Earlier this year the European Union struck what it believed to be compromise between Luddite anti-GMO campaigners and those that would like to see these crops, once safely vetted and approved, flourish. The deal, broadly speaking, went like this: the European Commission would test and approve specific genetically modified crops on a case-by-case basis to ensure their safety, but once crops were approved, member nations could opt out of importing them. In other words, Brussels gave EU countries a chance to say “no thanks, we don’t need to see the science, we’ll do without the crop.” Now, as Reuters reports, Latvia and Greece have the dubious distinction of being the first two nations officially to take advantage of that “opt-out” clause:
GM crops are widely-grown in the Americas and Asia, but Monsanto’s pest-resistant MON810 is the only variety grown in Europe, where opposition is fierce…In a statement on Thursday, the European Commission confirmed that so far only Latvia and Greece had asked for opt-outs from Monsanto’s request to continue to grow MON810.
In its formal response to Latvia, seen by Reuters, Monsanto says Latvia’s request “contradicts and undermines the scientific consensus on the safety of MON810″…”Nevertheless, we regret that some countries are deviating from a science-based approach to innovation in agriculture and have elected to prohibit the cultivation of a successful GM product on arbitrary political grounds,” the statement said.
These may have been the first, but they likely won’t be the last—Germany’s agricultural minister recently stated his country’s intention to opt-out; Scotland and France have similar anti-GMO stances. With these opt-outs, we’re getting a rare chance to see the opposition to GM crops laid bare. In effect, Latvia and Greece are telling Brussels that the scientifically rigorous approval process isn’t important. In some ways that’s refreshing to see, because that is exactly what anti-GMO greens around the world believe, though they campaign by preying on the fears of an unwitting public.
The fact is, these crops have been shown time and time again to be perfectly safe. With that box checked, we can go down the list: yes, they can produce higher yields; yes, they can be used with fewer pesticides (something you’d think greens would applaud); yes, they can even thrive in more extreme growing conditions, like the ones we’re told are heading our way due to climate change. This technology is a triumph of human ingenuity and its merits are being drowned out by the bias and fear mongering of the very group that ought to be championing it.
These kinds of issues will only grow in importance in the coming years as we cope with our planet’s changing climate and researchers produce more breakthroughs like GM crops. The world desperately needs a better class of environmentalist than the dour, short-sighted, Malthusian one it’s got.