World Food Day: GM controversy rages on; a world without fruits and vegetables?

With less than two weeks to go before the government renders its final judgement on the consultations at the Grenelle on environmental policy, no other issue has generated more heat than genetically modified crops.

Greenpeace has raised the stakes a notch further with its latest campaign for a complete ban on all GM crops entitled “The GMO bomb“. “Against the will of the overwhelming majority of citizens and the absence of a law, promoters of GM crops are trying today to impose a fait accompli of genetic pollution on the country.” The communiqué documents rising tension – notably in the southwestern Midi-Pyrenées department, where 70 percent of GM crops are planted – between GM farmers and organic farmers , beekeepers and makers of AOC quality products who must adhere to strict rules that stipulate no GM crops in their animal feed. Opponents of GM crops maintain that pollen from these plants can travel as far as 10 kilometers to contaminate non-GM plants. The fear is that if the descendant species end up proliferating, they will take over the ecosystem.

Tension has reached a pitch since the suicide of a farmer in the Lot department this summer. He took his life after being warned that anti-GM protestors had planned a picnic on his fields. The protestors generally arrive unannounced and cut down the crops. As a result, some farmers have not been declaring their fields, which result in commando attacks like the one Greenpeace staged earlier this year on an undeclared field in the Gers, which activists spray painted bright pink.

While Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo has suggested that he was leaning towards a complete ban, it is still not clear what the government intends to do. Opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of French consumers refuse to accept GM crops in any shape or form. With the exception of crops planted for research purposes, the only authorised GM crop at present is a single type of maize, called MON 810 and manufactured by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto.


Fears are also rife among beekeepers – despite a lack of conclusive scientific proof – that colony collapse disorder in bees is linked to contamination from GM crops with pest control characteristics such as transgenic maize. On the occasion of the FAO’s World Food Day today, let’s pause to imagine a world without bees. Le Monde carried an interview with Bernard Vaissière, pollination specialist at INRA, at the weekend in which he warns that the spread of colony collapse disorder worldwide carries within it that very threat. Studies show that 35 percent of the world’s food supply depends on insect pollination – fruit trees, melons, tomatoes, carrots, celery, parsley, onions and leeks. While humans could still soldier on with wheat, corn and rice, food diversity would take a serious hit. “Five years ago, I would have considered this hypothesis totally futuristic. Today, I take it seriously, as the decline is on a worldwide scale,” Vaissiere said.

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