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US-based biotech giant Monsanto is aiming to genetically modify all of Europe's maize over the next four years, a new report released today by Friends of the Earth reveals. The report also shows that in the ten years since the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods in Europe, the biotech industry has failed to deliver benefits for consumers or the environment, and has not played any role in solving hunger and poverty.

Friends of the Earth's report highlights that over the past ten years Monsanto has consistently worked to weaken European laws to protect consumers, the environment and farmers, and that despite overwhelming public rejection of GM in Europe, Monsanto and the biotech industry have had an unacceptable influence over many parts of European food, research and agriculture policies [1].

In November 2005 Monsanto announced to its investors that it sees Europe as a "next opportunity". The company highlighted that in the four years up to 2010 there is the potential to introduce 24 million acres of its Roundup Ready maize (a type of which was grown in the UK farm scale trials of GM crops) and 13 million acres of its YieldGard insect-resistant maize - this is equivalent to Europe's entire production of maize. In addition Monsanto is also aiming for one million acres of its soybeans to be planted in Europe [2].

Despite Monsanto's efforts, Friends of the Earth's report reveals that:

  • There have been no new GM crops approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, and despite 30 years of research and public money the industry has only delivered two GM traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.

  • Commercial growing on any significant scale is still limited to just Spain, and even there the number of GM crops permitted has now been reduced to just one.

  • The number of countries banning GM products have increased over recent years, and the number of regions in Europe declaring themselves GM Free zones have grown to 165, with 4,500 smaller areas also declaring themselves GM-free. In November the Swiss voted in a referendum for a five year GM ban.

  • Europeans continue to reject GM foods. European polls show that 70% of the public do not want to eat GM foods, and all major food manufacturers and retailers prohibit the use of GM in their products, in particular Monsanto's GM soya.

  • GM crops have failed to tackle hunger and poverty. Most GM crops are destined for animal feed, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. GM crops in developing countries have been grown mainly as export cash crops, sometimes at the expense of local food production. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto's GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted. Monsanto continues to introduce aggressive royalty initiatives in South America to increase its profits.

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"Monsanto's plans to take-over and genetically modify all maize production in Europe should ring alarm bells for farmers and consumers. The ten years since GM crops were introduced have been a complete failure. They have left poor farmers in developing countries destitute, increased the use of pesticides and led to a small number of very big corporations buying up the world's seed supply. Meanwhile, increasing evidence has emerged about the damaging effects of GM crops on wildlife. Little wonder that consumers continue to reject them. It is crucial that Europe and the UK Government act fast to stop Monsanto controlling our food, farming and environment."

Notes

[1] The executive summary of the report is available at
www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/who_benefits_from_gm_crops.pdf (PDF)

A fact sheet on GM crops is online at:
www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/monsanto_key_facts.pdf (PDF†)

[2] Brett Begemann, Executive Vice President, Monsanto Biennial US Investor Day, 10 November 2005,
www.monsanto.com/monsanto/content/investor/financial/ ¬
presentations/2005/11-10-05e.pdf
(PDF†)


†To view PDF files you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader. Visually impaired users can get extra help with these documents from access.adobe.com.

 

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

 

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust