GMOs: A false solution to the current food and environmental crises
GMOs should be banned from the European market, because they are not consistent with truly sustainable food systems, which are necessary to fulfill the European ambition to fight climate change and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
GMOs fail to deliver promised crop yields and benefits
Even though only very few GMO varieties are cultivated in Europe, notably thanks to the European legislation of 2003, we continue to import alarming quantities of GMO crops in the form of animal feed. This is the case despite the objection of the European Parliament to authorizations to import and cultivate in the EU 36 GMOs over the past 4 years (more information here).
We are now going to undo the myth shared by the industry, according to which GMOs will help to sustainably “feed the world”. We produce more food than we need; the reasons for persistent famines are linked to problems of access to food, not to its quantity.
In addition, there is growing evidence that GMOs are not delivering the crop yields and benefits promised. On the contrary, GMOs are part of an increasingly intensive agriculture, with a widespread approach of monoculture, which contributes to climate change, loss of biodiversity and poor food systems. The GM crop model is also based on glyphosate, the excessive use of which impoverishes soils, in addition to being toxic to humans.
GMOs encourage concentration of power in the hands of a handful of men
No rigorous or independent clinical research has proven that GMOs are safe for human consumption. In addition to these risks, there are the risks faced by the thousands of workers outside the EU who spray pesticides to produce GM feed imported by Europe to feed livestock.
Finally, GMOs encourage the concentration of power in the hands of a handful of men, as patents allow multinationals to retain ownership over GMO seeds, depriving farmers of their means of production.
The recent emergence of “New Plant Breeding Techniques” (NPBT) is once again fueling the debate on GMOs. In line with the July 2018 Court of Justice ruling, Slow Food maintains that NPBTs must be subject to the same legislation as GMOs. They present the same risks, although the biotech industry is doing everything possible to present them as a sustainable solution (more information, here).
As a global food movement, Slow Food works to create a food system built on agroecology, where the right, good and clean nutrients are produced through genetic diversity. The European food system must be based on food biodiversity, the diversity of cultures and traditional methods and know-how – which GMOs cannot under any circumstances ensure.
AGAINST THE ”
Regulation should not rule out safe and useful technology
GMOs are widely used in Europe. The insulin that diabetics inject daily is a product made from GMOs, the same goes for the rennet used to make our cheese, and for many organic varieties. Likewise, our livestock feed is heavily imported and made from GMO products, and our jeans and banknotes are made from GMO cotton. However, people do not find these uses problematic. So the question asked seems relevant only for agricultural use (moreover, only very few GMO crops are grown on European fields) and the presence of GMO foods in our food.
This technology helps to develop a sustainable agriculture model
Since the end of the 1990s, agricultural practices have encountered strong public opposition, fueled by environmental, socio-economic and health concerns. Nevertheless, scientific evidence shows that genetic modification is completely safe. This is what one would expect from a technology that allows altering the genetic code of plants with much more precision and direction than less controversial methods, such as classical breeding and mutagenesis techniques (which bombard genes with radiation!). In addition, the technology helps to develop a model of sustainable agriculture.
What about the GM cotton which makes its own insecticide and which is used by organic farming? GMO potatoes that produce their own natural immunity, and which are found among wild varieties? Or, a papaya that is resistant to viruses? These applications not only require less or no release of pesticides, but they are also beneficial for the small farms that grow the most GM crops, whether in terms of health, money or emancipation.
Regulation should not depend on emotional and quasi-religious convictions
When do the Europeans oppose GMO products? Negative arguments and representations of GMOs appeal to intuition. An edited image showing a tomato crossed with a fish plays with our essential DNA guesses. The idea of “Frankenfood” is grafted onto the popular idea that Mother Nature provides, and it would be best not to interfere with her plans. Add to that the feeling of disgust for claiming that GMOs cause all kinds of disease by contaminating the environment and you have a strong mix of politically influential, but dramatically false beliefs.
Concerns about patents and multinationals are just rationalizations post hoc, as they do not apply exclusively to GMOs and certainly not to all uses of GMOs. Regulation should not depend on emotional and quasi-religious convictions. The only regulation that makes sense is that used on a case-by-case basis, and which would not exclude secure and useful technology. The best option is to allow GMOs on the European market.