Monsanto is withdrawing its current applications to cultivate genetically modified crops in Europe following years of frustration at EU approval systems.
But despite a flurry of newspaper headlines proclaiming that the biotech giant had abandoned GM in Europe, campaigners warn that it is not the end of the story and have given the latest development a cautious welcome.
Yesterday (July 18) Monsanto confirmed that it was withdrawing six EU cultivation applications for sugar beet and soya. While continuing to grow its existing GM corn product in Spain, the company said it would now switch focus to building the market in Europe for its conventional products and enabling imports of its biotech crops.
Pete Riley of leading campaign group GM Freeze said: “We very much welcome Monsanto’s decision, but it is not the end of the story. It has taken a long time for the penny to drop that trying to force failing GM technology onto an unwilling market it is simply not good business, and we hope other companies will follow suit – but EU GM imports are still a problem.
“There is now a real opportunity for Europe to push ahead with farming that is sustainable, based on reducing dependencies on agrochemicals and adopting time-tested practices like crop rotation and biological control of pests. Policies, financial incentives and research and development all need to shift in this direction.
“Supermarkets, animal feed manufacturers and farmers need to meet consumer demand by working together to drop our heavy dependence on imported GM soya to feed livestock and poultry.”
GM Freeze warns that the current lack of labels on meat, eggs, dairy products and fish produced using GM feed means that Europe’s growing reliance on GM is hidden from consumers. It says food companies should “meet the clear demand for entirely non-GM foods by labelling those produced without GM, as is done successfully by many companies in Germany, Austria and France”.