With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science

(New York Times) By Mark Lynas—Call it the “Coalition of the Ignorant.” By the first week of October, 17 European countries — including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had used new European Union rules to announce bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops. These prohibitions expose the worrying reality of how far Europe has gone in setting itself against modern science. True, the bans do not apply directly to scientific research, and a few countries — led by England — have declared themselves open to cultivation of genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s. But the chilling effect on biotech science in Europe will be dramatic: Why would anyone spend years developing genetically modified crops in the knowledge that they will most likely be outlawed by government fiat? Read more here.

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8 responses to “With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science

  1. It is clear that Lynas is staunchly in favor of the use of GMOs in developing countries, for reasons he uses this article to explain, such as resistance of crops to viruses, increased food for the hungry in developing countries, and the benefits of scientific research. He lists some supposed drawbacks to the banning of genetic modification in Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, like decreased revenue and the decimation of crops by disease. However, I think Lynas fails to acknowledge the many (and in my opinion, more serious) negative externalities of genetic modification. He calls Europe’s aversion to GMOs a “phobia”, implying that a baseless and irrational fear, rather than a carefully and widely researched conclusion. He doesn’t point out the loss of biodiversity that GMO can lead to, or the fact that “more and more GM monoculture crops (like soy or maize) are being harvested for export and not primarily for domestic consumption” (Kaphengst, Timo and Lucy Smith 2013: The Impact of Biotechnology on Developing Countries. Ecologic Institute, Berlin.), meaning that GMOs are decreasingly benefitting those who Lynas claims they save. Nor does Lynas mention the alternatives to GMO in lesser developed countries, as well as more sustainable opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship that are developing. Overall, I believe he makes some good points, but that his research is incomplete.

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  2. I am not sure that Europe’s ban of GMOs is a position taken against science and what’s more, his article poses a gross generalization of the real matter. He claims that Europe is opting out of GMO agriculture while the reality is that 19 European countries have targeted Monsanto’s corn crop, MON810. I agree with Alex in that Lynas has not provided enough evidence to counter his argument, although given that this is an Opinion piece it would be in his best interests to omit some of the facts. Perhaps the European Union’s decision to ban GMO cultivation will benefit the ecology of their lands. Many GMOs are created for the purposes of planting monocultures, which deplete the soil of its nutrients and mostly benefit the countries to which they are exported rather than their domestic farm workers.

    However, GMOs show much higher yields and are much stronger than organic crops, increasing their chances of feeding the worlds’ starving populations. Within this turmoil we could find the chance to elucidate the injustices done to small farmers in developing countries. I think that we can work toward a collaboration between crop biotechnology and international development as long as we are willing to look at both accounts.

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  3. As the other two commentators have said, the article is very broad in terms of the GMO phobia in Europe. Lynas is not mentioning other important facts of GMOs but instead stressing on how this fear of this science innovation in Europe has begun to change how they view science as a whole. As a pre-med student I see this as such a shame. The advances that we have been able to see in science over the past years are marvelous and for one finding to have such an impact on other innovations or biology as a whole in Europe is such a shame.

    Moreover, what came to mind while reading this article is what we discussed in class about GMOs and how we have not really found them to be harmful for human consumption. Therefore, as wargol2017 suggests, GMOs instead should be analyzed as how they could help feed the starving populations in the world.

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  4. Not only is there no scientific evidence showing health risks linked to consuming GMO’s, but there are countless benefits to growing them. With a continually increasing global population and problem of third world hunger, the usefulness of this technology to benefit both farmers and poor societies is extreme.

    GMO’s resist weeds, pests, and diseases that would destroy a farmer’s crop yield. They limit the need for pesticides and herbicides that are harmful for human consumption. They maintain larger yields to make more effective use of farming land. They can be modified to contain more nutritional aspects. They can have a longer shelf life by resisting the mold and bacteria that would cause normal food to decay rapidly, and much more.

    In a wealthy nation, people have the privilege to be choosy as to what types (organic of GMO) of food they put in their bodies. In poorer nations, this is not the case. Limiting the growth of GMO foods may not effect a wealthy nation, but underprivileged nations rely on the mass production of food to fight starvation.

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  5. I have been having a lot of conversations with my roommate, who is a science major, about this topic, and he is baffled that there are still some people in the world that are not completely accepting of GMO’s. Coming from a completely scientific standpoint and based on the information that is available about the safety testing on GMO’s, there seems to be no logical reason why they would not be utilized. I think that my roommate echoes the sentiment of a sizable portion of the global population in thinking that the pros of GMO’s outweigh the cons, yet we are both surprised that there seems to be continued opposition against it. While I disagree with Shiva’s idealistic standpoint about the seeds of destruction, I understand about the cultural conflict that it presents. What I do not understand is why these European countries, which have no direct cultural dilemma about preserving agricultural culture, are allowing themselves to be influenced by the negative sentiment the media has generated about GMO’s. In my Business and Society class, my group did our final project analyzing Chipotle (an American company). Chipotle has consistently highlighted the fact that they do not use GMO’s, and it has proved successful for them in attacking millions of customers, so it is not just in Europe that these beliefs exist. GMO’s can make a huge impact for developing countries to feed mass amounts of poor people, and those countries should continue to accept it, but there are plenty of people in Europe and the US that are suffering from food deprivation as well; these countries should also forget about the propaganda and start using them to feed their own people as well.

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  6. I have always been baffled as to why people think so negatively of GMO’s. People I have talked to/read seem to immediately discount the idea just because it “isn’t natural” and therefor isn’t healthy. I think because people are so quick to discount it, that people in positions of power, rather than inform their constituents, play on their fears to consolidate their power.This happens in so many other debates, i.e. immigration, Syrian refugees, that it is really not all that surprising to see it happen with this one.
    The one claim against GMO’s that I have heard, but have not researched very much, is that since one corporation, Monsanto, owns most of the GMO food products, they are able to take advantage of poor farmers. In class we talked about the laws that are present to protect farmers from this issue, but it still appears to me that more competition could only benefit all farmers of GMO produce. However, I believe the market structure of the GMO industry is another issue entirely from whether GMO’s are a good thing for society, which they clearly are.

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  7. I recently was able to speak with a member of the Economics Bureau, specifically the Agricultural Policy sector and it was fascinating (and frightening) to see how engrained this sentiment is. Europeans are overwhelmingly opposed to GMOs in spite of science and these grassroots sentiments are affecting the policy-makers. Their reactions to the word, “GMO” is visceral– not rational.
    The quote below clearly demonstrates this illogical thought process.
    “While giving a talk about G.M.O.s two years ago in rural Tanzania, I was interrupted by an organic farmer who said he was determined never to grow biotech crops. His grounds? That they’d turn his children homosexual.”
    The public needs a scapegoat and GMOs are it. I think the truly vindictive industries are the ones that capitalize on this fear by using buzzwords like “GMO-free” and “all-natural/completely organic.” But it’s hugely problematic because how do you educate these people whose viewpoints do not make sense, but are reinforced with illegitimate moral superiority and underlined with paranoia?
    It can’t come from the industries producing GMOs and from the governments because it would be viewed as propaganda, and it won’t come from local farmers…The responsibility rests on the shoulders of NGOs, but getting those organizations to focus on these discussions in a timely manner (timely for the sake of T-TIPP) is difficult.

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  8. I find it interesting that nowhere in this article is Monsanto even mentioned. I suppose that we all have our own opinion whether GMOs are considered safe. Ultimately, GMOs will be necessary to feed the ever expanding world population with finite resources. My concern is that one company, Monsanto, is going to have control over the world’s food supply. They already control the corn and soy industry, and such a monopoly is something I think we should be hesitant to embrace.

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