Anti-GMO sentiment is picking up momentum in Europe, with France the latest to hop on the Luddite bandwagon. Brussels caved to pressure from green fear-mongering this spring by striking a dubious compromise, allowing its member states to opt-out of the cultivation and importing of genetically modified crops deemed safe by EU scientists. Since then, the entirely predictable has happened, as green-eyed countries have formed an orderly queue to exercise that opt out. Latvia and Greece were the first to submit their formal requests, and Scotland and Germany are both preparing to follow suit. And now, France is making its own formal request to eschew modern science and reject GM crops, as Reuters reports:
The European Union’s largest grain grower and exporter has asked the European Commission for France to be excluded from some GM maize crop cultivation under the new scheme, the farm and environment ministries said in a joint statement.
As part of the opt-out process, France also passed legislation in the National Assembly that would enable it to oppose the cultivation of GM crops, even if approved at EU level, on the basis of certain criteria including environment and farm policy, land use, economic impact or civil order, the environment ministry added.
In a sense, the EU’s strategy of assessing the safety of GM crops centrally, yet allowing member states to do what they will with that knowledge, does the technology a favor. It gives the policymakers and activists lobbying against GMOs no cover for their position—a dispassionate scientific review of these crops has shown them to be safe, so the contrarians have to justify their opposition on other criteria. France cites unsubstantiated doubts over GMO’s effects on the environment, but Scotland’s Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead had a much more honest defense when he said his country wanted a ban to protect its “clean and green brand.”
In the end, that’s what the environmentalists’ opposition to GMOs boils down to—the complete rejection of science in favor of emotional or spiritual values. Both have a place in any discussion of something so intimate and personally relevant as the food we eat, but the willful ignorance of the former to justify the latter is, in the case of GMOs, a pernicious delusion. These crops can feed more people on less land in more extreme conditions with fewer pesticides, and do all of that safely. You’d think a movement that so often relies on appeals to science would understand that.