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european groups: resistance to gmos continues to grow

Friends of the Earth Europe tracks and challenges the biotechnology industry’s activities, publishing an annual report on the state of the industry. Its 2009 report, "Who Benefits from GM crops? Feeding the biotech giants, not the world’s poor," looks behind the spin and exposes the reasons why GM crops cannot, and are unlikely to ever, contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.

Spanish maize fleeing to French embassyThe report also exposes inconsistencies in European biotech lobby group EuropaBio’s reporting: the group inflated the figures for GM crop cultivation by almost a quarter to mask an actual decline. It concludes that GM crops cannot, and are unlikely to ever contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.


Germany’s 2009 decision to ban the cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn MON 810 was a major highlight during the year. The decision made Germany the sixth EU member state to approve a ban. Four of the six countries have never permitted MON 810 cultivation, but France and Germany are particularly significant because they are the first to have banned the crop after it was first cultivated. This was a major blow to the GM industry in Europe. 


Working in close alliance with farmers, consumers and citizen groups, Friends of the Earth Germany played a key role in persuading German politicians to make this shift. The group was also instrumental in coordinating more than 29,000 farmers in more than 190 GMO-free regions and 200 municipalities, who came together as part of the GMO-free regions project.


Resistance to GM cultivation is also growing in Spain, the only European Union country with a substantial area of GM crops. On 17 April 2009, more than 15,000 people joined a protest in Madrid calling for “Agriculture and Food Free from GMOs” which was co-organized by Friends of the Earth Spain and consumer and farmers’ groups and others. 


Friends of the Earth Spain also organized an action on the newly authorized GM potato, which took place in front of the Spanish Parliament, where cooks and ‘executives’ from BASF and Monsanto offered tortillas to those entering the parliament. The GM-free food was definitely more popular! Support in other countries included an action by Friends of the Earth Cyprus in front of the Spanish embassy in Cyprus. 


In a further action in September, Friends of the Earth Spain’s activists - dressed as Spanish maize - fled to the French Embassy in Madrid, fearing contamination from genetically modified maize varieties, the majority of which are grown in Spain. The stunt helped raised awareness of the cultivation of Monsanto’s MON 810 in Europe. This GM maize is banned in France but grown in Spain with little precaution taken against cross-contamination.


Working together with Food and Water Watch and Via Campesina’s European Coordination, Friends of the Earth Europe also produced a groundbreaking film revealing the hidden chain of destruction stretching from factory farms in Europe to the forests of South America. Huge soy plantations are devastating communities, destroying wildlife and worsening the effects of climate change. Meanwhile in Europe small-scale farming that is good for people and the environment is losing out to big business. “Killing Fields, the battle to feed factory farms,” is available in 12 different languages. It challenges the EU to reduce its dependence on imports of soy if it is serious about addressing climate change, the global loss of biodiversity, human rights, and the food crisis.


See the film ‘Killing Fields’ here:

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