According to an article I just read on Audrey Garric’s ecology blog for Le Monde, “Les OGM reculent-ils vraiment en Europe?”, GMO use is on the decline in Europe – thanks primarily to the public.
In fact, in 2010 only 0,06% of all European agricultural spaces were subject to GMO use (a 23% decrease since 2008).
This is promising news.
Garric goes on to explain that only two GMO products are grown in Europe: corn (MON 810, from the American company Monsanto – no surprise) and potatoes (Amflora, from the German company BASF – approved by the European Commission just last year). I started getting tense as I read this, then learned that France (among seven other European countries) bans the use of MON 810 (a small sigh of relief). Such banning is part of the reason GMO use is declining in Europe, but the main reason, as the article highlights, is that 61% of the population opposes genetically modified products and chooses not to consume them.
That all sounds great, but the story isn’t quite so simple. Even though Europe isn’t growing many genetically modified produce, we are importing it from elsewhere – mostly to feed animals. Even though I, and the rest of the anti-GMO Europeans, don’t actively consume genetically modified products, traces of them end up in the animal products we consume (my homemade yogurt suddenly doesn’t sound so appetizing).
I’m against the use of GMOs in large part because we are not aware of potential dangers. I also don’t like the idea of agricultural and chemical companies dominating the production of seeds. You can argue that using GMOs can contribute to reducing the use of pesticides and, thus, our dependence on fossil fuels, but I don’t quite buy it. I don’t think replacing one evil with another is the ideal solution.
Since we’re on the topic, I’m reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The entire first part is dedicated to corn and how it has changed the face of American agriculture. Really interesting! Let’s hope Europe doesn’t end up there, too.