Where they are grown, GM-crops are linked to massive increases in herbicide use, the expansion of mono-cultural farming practices, and increased costs all along the food chain. The resulting social, environmental and economic impacts are severe – contributing to small farmers losing their land and livelihoods, and failing to alleviate poverty.
Public opposition has so far meant that GM-crops are not widespread in Europe. Some GM maize is grown, mainly in Spain, for animal feed. However agri-business has submitted dozens of applications to grow many more GM-crops in the European Union, and the European Commission will this year consider reviving talks to approve 25 new GM crops for cultivation. These are either resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, or produce insecticide. These include varieties of GM maize, soybean and sugarbeet. These crops constitute a major threat to sustainable farming in Europe, our right to choose and the environment.
Most GM-crops fall in to one of two categories. They are either engineered to resist chemical herbicides, or they are engineered to produce insecticides in the plants themselves. Herbicide resistant crops increase the use of herbicides, increasing costs for farmers as well as creating environmental and health problems, affecting poorer communities who live near large GM farms in developing countries, as well as causing pollution. Insecticide crops are constantly producing toxins when they're not even necessary, and can indiscriminately kill other insects beneficial for the environment.
GM-crops are patented – allowing research, breeding and ultimately the entire food chain of GM-crops to be controlled by a few multinational companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Pioneer and Dow. The GM market is driven by these companies' desire to sell herbicides as well as seeds, in their aggressive pursuit of profit. Traditional crops and local varieties in combination with modern plant breeding are invariably cheaper and better suited to local conditions.
The cultivation and trade of GM-crops adds costs not only for farmers but also for companies in the organic and conventional food and feed supply chain. The costs of keeping seeds, crop and foods separate from GM varieties to avoid contamination is borne by the non-GM producers. This is profoundly unfair – essentially placing the economic burden on the victim, not the polluter.
GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty
Continued industry promises about the ability of GM crops to tackle the world's growing social problems are pure myth: there is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield or salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other 'beneficial' traits. GM crops are confined to a handful of countries with highly industrialised agricultural sectors – where GM-cash-crops are grown to be sold on the world market for textiles, feed and fuel, and not to feed people.
The large majority of the European public have recognised that GM-crops offer no added value –only added environmental and health risks. Several European governments have bans on the cultivation of GM-crops. There are GM-free regions in nearly every European country, some countries almost entirely covered in them. All leading European supermarkets and food companies phased out food containing GM ingredients over 10 years ago. As the European Commission considers opening Europe’s doors to further GM-crop cultivation, these pages present some of the dangers – and argue for food and farms that provide livelihoods and healthy food for people, protect our biodiversity, and don't pollute the environment.