Commodity prices push European policies


The recent soaring cost of many basic foods worldwide has forced a new focus on many areas of policy and in Europe the issue of genetically modified crops has attracted renewed media and wider interest. The reason is that the European Union has proved resistant to almost all perceived or promoted advantages of GM crops. Environmental groups opposed to the technology gained early advantage because of its promotion by international conglomerates whose motive was seen as profit rather than consumer or environmental benefit. “GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them,” claimed British campaigner George Monbiot. And many European retail businesses have been quick to perceive that they can win consumers with the label ‘GM-free’. But Europe is now out on a limb as many other countries have happily taken up GM crop varieties; for example, GM soya is grown throughout America and Asia where it causes little concern amongst people basically for the reason that no one has died because of eating GM food. Europe’s concern with environmental issues has seen much lower priority elsewhere. The first genetically modified seeds for commercial use were planted in the US 12 years ago. By 2006, genetically modified crops were grown on 102 million hectares worldwide — an area almost the size of Germany and France combined. Soya, maize, cotton and rapeseed account for almost all GM crop production. The countries with the largest areas of GM crops are the US, followed by Argentina, Brazil and Canada. China and India are also increasing rapidly their cultivation of GM cotton. Last year, the area under GM crops grew by 12 million hectares, the majority of which was GM maize. In the US, GM soya and cotton production now provides around Food policy pressures: The continent may have to change its stance on genetically modified crops, writes Nigel Williams. Commodity prices push European policies 90 per cent of total production, and GM maize varieties increased from 61 to 73 per cent of total production. But, within Europe, the first generation of GM crops have been seen as a pretty unattractive bunch. They mostly comprise crops that are either herbicide resistant, so growers are able to use weedkillers in the fields, which was not previously possible, or they contain systemic insecticides, which reduce pest damage. Such traits have been seized upon by environmental campaigners. In the EU only one GM maize variety is cultivated on around 110,000 hectares in Spain, France, Czech Republic, Portugal, Slovakia and Germany. European resistance is seen globally as a barrier to developing the technology, especially as many leading plant scientists work in Europe but often experience public hostility and public funding resistance to GM work. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the global food price rises, and problems of severe shortages reported in many poorer countries, have been used as a call to support wider acceptance of the need for GM technology as a way of tackling the problem. And great play is made of the potential

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.05.016

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@article{Williams2008CommodityPP, title={Commodity prices push European policies}, author={Nigel Williams}, journal={Current Biology}, year={2008}, volume={18}, pages={R446-R447} }