Maybe this was predictable: 19 of the EU’s 28 member nations have so far asked to “opt out” of scientist-approved genetically modified crops, exercising an option afforded to them by a compromise made by the European Commission earlier this spring. Under that deal, EU scientists are tasked with evaluating the safety of GMOs before their import into the trading bloc, but members are still given the option to eschew that expert analysis and reject GM crops on a case-by-case basis. Since then, the number of countries opting out has steadily risen, and a spokesperson confirmed earlier this week that the European Commission has received 19 such requests. Reuters reports:
The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of Monsanto’s GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially cultivated in the European Union, or for pending applications, of which there are eight so far, the Commission said. […]
The 19 requests are from Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany (except for research), Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
These GMO rejections are notable for the fact that they’re entirely political. While greens often cite safety concerns to explain their hypocritical rejection of higher-yield, hardier, and less pesticide-reliant GM crops, in this case the facts are quite clear: The only crop that’s been approved so far—a Monsanto maize variety—has passed rigorous EU testing, and the other 9 awaiting approval will undergo that same scrutiny. The 19 opt-out nations might try and cite health or environmental concerns by way of explanation (and indeed many of them already have), but that’s not borne out by the science.
But GMOs aren’t dead in Europe. Spain and Portugal have a long history of planting genetically modified corn, and Romania seems excited at the prospect of boosting its own GM cultivation. “It’s common sense that any maize farmer, be it in Spain or in Portugal or in Romania, would like to reduce production costs and eventually reap a bigger harvest”, said Laurentiu Baciu, president of the Romanian farming coalition LAPAR.
If humanity wants to feed itself on a warming and increasingly crowded planet, it’s going to need to plant better crops, and to that end greens, and the policymakers they hold sway over, need to get over their irrational rejection of GMOs.