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Several European countries move to rule out GMOs

Nineteen out of the 28 member state countries of the European Union have voted to either partially or fully ban Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This comes after the European Commission called for each EU nation to vote if they wanted to opt out of having to grow GMO crops even if they were allowed to do so within the boundaries of the EU.

Nineteen out of 28 EU countries have voted to rule out GMO crops. Image courtesy of inhabitat.com

Nineteen out of 28 EU countries have voted to rule out GMO crops. Image courtesy of inhabitat.com

Several countries such as France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Malta, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia have chosen a total ban. Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium has opted out, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Flemish region of Belgium, England and Romania are open to GMOs.

So far the only GM crop grown in the EU (within Spain and Portugal mainly) is the GM maize MON 810, which is manufactured by American multinational biotechnology company Monsanto. Despite this, there are almost 60 GM crops approved for use which are freely bought and sold across the EU. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently investigating eight further GMOs to determine if they meet EU standards. Monsanto, along with other similar multinationals Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Pioneer were given one month to respond to requests from those countries deciding to opt out of GMO use. The EU made it mandatory to label GMO products so that consumers know what they are buying, but the U.S.A has not done this to date.

Genetically Modified (GM) plants are those that have been engineered in a laboratory in order to make them resistant to disease, pests and certain environmental conditions. The term ‘GMO’ can be applied to any modified plants, animals and micro-organisms. America and Asia have been growing GM crops on a large scale for many years. Although many groups across the U.S.A. have come out against GMOs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has continued to support the industry. Proponents say GMOs ensure that crops rarely fail and that they are needed to feed a rapidly growing world population.

Protest against GMOs in Madrid, Spain under the slogan ‘GMO-free agriculture’. Image courtesy of www.greenpeace.org

Protest against GMOs in Madrid, Spain under the slogan ‘GMO-free agriculture’. Image courtesy of www.greenpeace.org

However GMOs cause controversy for a number of reasons and remain a divisive issue worldwide, especially within Europe. Environmental activist groups, for instance, Greenpeace have been protesting strongly against GMOs for some time. This is due to fears that GMOs have the potential to cause harm to human and animal health and ecosystems, as well as a dramatic reduction in plant diversity. In addition, it is very difficult to stop the spread of GMO crops as they can easily transfer to areas where natural crops are growing through means like wind and insect pollination.

Many groups and individuals are not happy with the current varied laws governing GMOs across member states and would prefer a total ban across Europe. It is not clear how things will develop, however it is certain that many European citizens still have much to say on the subject.