Biotech crops in Europe could be "dead and buried"


Within days, biotech crops in Europe could be “dead and buried,” says Mark Lynas, and “Europe’s cutting edge in an important field of scientific innovation will be lost forever.

“Our continent’s farmers will be stuck using gallons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, when science offers more environmentally-friendly ways of growing crops — if only European politicians will allow European farmers to use them.”

Lynas, who lives in Oxford, England, is an environmental writer/campaigner and currently a visiting fellow in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In an article in The Guardian, one of the leading newspapers in Great Britain, he notes that proposals now before the European Parliament entail a “little-noticed debate that could be crucial for the future of European agriculture.”

Parliament members have been asked by the European Commission and member states to overturn an almost 15-year de facto ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Europe.

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Despite a preponderance of scientific evidence on the safety of GMO crops, and repeated advice from independent scientists that the crops should be allowed, the ban has held, Lynas says, because “certain countries, such as France and Hungary, have made it clear they will never approve a GM crop under any circumstances, thereby preventing any other member state within the European Union’s single market from allowing farmers to plant biotech seeds.

“No one thinks the French and Hungarians, who seem to have integrated anti-GM superstition into their cultural DNA, are going to change their minds anytime soon.”

The proposals before the European Parliament, Lynas says, are intended to allow anti-biotech countries to opt out of any pending GM crop approvals — “probably a necessary compromise in order to allow EU members…that do want to move forward on biotech research to do so without being held back forever by the intransigents.”

Even though the compromise, “carefully crafted over four years of tortuous negotiations,” won near-unanimous approval, Lynas says, anti-GM lobbyists have resulted in proposals from the parliament’s influential Environment Committee that “have been so drastically amended that they would make the existing stalemate even worse.”

The upshot of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by lobbyists, he says, is that parliament members “now risk sleepwalking into approving legislation which would effectively prohibit scientific research by default. The result would be that important taxpayer-funded biotech work could be frozen out of Europe… This matters because Europe is still, despite years of anti-biotech vandalism and pervasive misinformation, a leader in publicly-funded research to address some of the real challenges in agriculture.”

The deadline for submission of the potentially-fatal amendments is past, and Nov. 5 is the date set for parliament members to vote on the issue.

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