Anti-GM campaigners have launched a new push to ‘safeguard the future of European farming’ and stop the European Union from authorising 25 genetically modified crops for cultivation in the EU.
The Stop the Crop campaign, which is being run by Friends of the Earth and the Corporate Europe Observatory, kicked off on Monday (18 March) with the launch of a new website, stopthecrop.org, and a four-minute video news release (below) – available in English, German and French – about GM crops and the Monsanto-made pesticide RoundUp.
The video opens with a report on the controversial French study that last year linked RoundUp-tolerant GM maize to increased rates of cancer in rats, and features an interview with a Danish pig farmer who claims RoundUp residue in imported GM soya has had a negative impact on his pigs, including increased birth defects in piglets.
British farmer Michael Hart is interviewed about his experience on a recent trip to the US, where he said he found farmers increasingly disillusioned with the benefits of GM crops. Also featured in the video are UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew, Corporate Europe Observatory campaigner Nina Holland and Patrick Holden of the Sustainable Food Trust.
The campaigners have also produced a 10-minute short film about GM crop cultivation in South America, which claims GM crops there have led to greater use of pesticides and have wreaked damage on human health and the environment.
With the EU currently considering reviving talks on 25 new GM crops – including RoundUp-tolerant varieties – it was time to raise public awareness of the “drastic change” GM crops would mean for European agriculture, including the “contamination of conventional and organic crops and further industrialisation of the countryside”, the campaigners said. GM crops are expected to be discussed at the next Council of the European Union meeting on the environment, on 21 March.
“GM crops are unnecessary, risky, and profit large multinational companies at the expense of small-scale and sustainable farming” - Mute Schimpf, Stop the Crop
If the EU allowed more GM crops to be cultivated, “our landscapes will be poorer, our nature damaged and our food contaminated,” said Friends of the Earth Europe campaigner Mute Schimpf. “GM crops are unnecessary, risky, and profit large multinational companies at the expense of small-scale and sustainable farming. It’s time to plough all our resources into making farming really sustainable and to stop pandering to the biotech industry and their empty promises of reducing hunger or feeding the world.”
Holland of the Corporate Europe Observatory said increased use of GM crops – particularly soya – from Latin America had had devastating consequences for local communities. “Currently, the EU imports genetically modified soy from large-scale monoculture plantations in South America, causing not only deforestation and displacement of people, but also a public health disaster among rural communities living nearby. In those areas, citizens have taken legal action and have brought soy farmers and agribusiness companies to court.”
The campaign will focus initially on raising public awareness through the website and the videos, but Schimpf said the campaigners planned to “mobilise” the public and encourage them to write to their MPs and other local politicians during later phases of the campaign.
The French study on RoundUp and RoundUp-tolerant maize referred to in the campaign video was discredited by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in November. EFSA said it had “serious concerns” about the design and methodology of the study, and concluded its findings were not scientifically sound.
Monsanto said in a statement in September: “This study does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research, the findings are not supported by the data presented and the conclusions are not relevant for the purpose of safety assessment.”
‘Farming needs to change’
Responding to news of the Stop the Crop campaign, the Crop Protection Association said: “Continued developments in plant science will be crucial to meeting the challenge of ‘sustainable intensification’ in the 21st century. Examining the potential of a variety of new plant protection technologies, including GM, must be part of that.
“The fact is, farming in Europe needs to change. We’re lucky to have a climate and geography that allows us to play a major role in feeding the world - especially as other parts of the globe will find it increasingly difficult to grow food due to climate change. Failure to foster a progressive attitude to food production in Europe, which includes a commitment to agricultural R&D, only puts further pressure on developing countries that already struggle to feed themselves.”
The Stop the Crop campaign video is below: