Public resistance – The long struggle against GMOS in Europe

In spite of the repeated rejections of European farmers

and consumers who have consistently iterated their

opposition to the introduction of GMOs in European fields

and markets, the EU is still pushing them against European

Food Soveriegnty, and GMO crops and foods are in our

fields and shops. The struggle against GMOs continues.

It is clear that the push for GM technology in Europe is

caused by the commitments made by the EU Commission

to biotechnology industries and their political

representatives in order to introduce GM crops in Europe.

GM seeds represent the last step in reducing the role of

farmers from independent food producers to simple labourers,

ignoring the

value of


knowledge, the role of farmers in biodiversity and

environmental protection and locking farmers into a

system based on seed, fertiliser, agrochemical and energy

inputs entirely dependent on and controlled by

transnational corporations and a logic of profit.

The farmers of the European Coordination Via Campesina

reject GM agriculture on all grounds, and most urgently

for the threat it poses to the very model of agricultural

and food production which is now urgently needed in

order to protect the environment, biodiversity, European

food sovereignty and rural livelihoods.

A crisis in EU authorisation procedures?

In order to facilitate the introduction of GMOs in Europe,

the European Commission has opted for a onedimensional

approach based entirely on the scientific

evaluations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),

and has failed to consult other bodies (national

authorities, The European Group on Ethics and New


EFSA itself has failed to fulfil it’s remit in significant areas

of importance to EU citizens and member state’s


See Greenpeace document: “EU GMO Environmental Risk Assessment needs reforming”, September 2008

, and has had clear questions raised over it’s

impartiality – the example

of Suzy Renckens, who

left EFSA’s GMO panel for

a job working directly with

the Swiss Biotech firm

Syngenta is but one of

many clear examples of


See “Head of European Food Standards Agency GMO panel moves to Syngenta: Letter to Barroso” Jan 21st 2010 on

It is unacceptable that the EU has been allowed to “push”

through controversial products such as GMOs taking

advantage of given loopholes in an otherwise clear

regulatory framework in place to ensure due process. As

such this threatens democratic process and transparency

and lends credence to the assessment that EU policies are

driven by corporate as opposed to citizen interests –

threatening the faith of citizens in the EU. The recent

authorization of the BASF AmFlora Potato by the

Commission in spite of a simple majority opposition in the

EU council is an example of this.

The eventual submission of the EU Commission to request Socio-Economic

Impact studies of GMOS is an important step, as it means they have finally

complied with EC Regulation 178/2002:

“It is recognised that scientific assessment alone cannot, in some cases

provide all the information on which a risk management decision should be

based, and that other factors relevant to the matter under consideration

should legitimately be taken into account including societal, economic,

traditional, ethical and environmental factors and the feasibility of


It should be noted that these “societal, economic, traditional, ethical and

environmental factors” have never been properly taken into account by the

EU Commission in the procedure for GM authorization in Europe.

The failure of the European Commission to take these

other factors into account up until now throws into

question it’s competency in managing the risk of the

introduction of GMOs into Europe.

The clear questions raised from the socio-economic

reports from farmer’s and civil society organisations will

require an in depth analysis of how EU institutions have

functioned in Europe, and a deeper investigation into the

corporate takeover of EU decision making.

Socio-economic impacts and their

implications for EU policy making

The socio-economic reports provided by farmer’s

organisations and civil society organisations, most

importantly from Spain (where the majority of currently

authorized GMOs, maize varieties derived from the

MON810 event, are cultivated) provide important insights

to the practical impacts of this new technology on

individuals and communities through eyes unclouded by

the potential for scientific or financial advancement.

The “domino effect” nature of many of these impacts

should also send warning bells ringing in European

institutions. The introduction of GMOs in delicately

balanced rural social and economic systems can have

unforeseen and long lasting consequences. Socioeconomic

impacts give a first impression of the potential

difficulties GMOs can cause in Europe, the long term

effects of which are difficult to quantify. The introduction of GM technology on incomplete scientific analysis

without consideration of other impacts is at best shortsighted

and at worst irresponsible.

The Spanish Case studies – practical

examples, real lives

The full study is attached to this article in english and spanish.

Direct economic impacts

There is clear evidence of direct negative economic

impacts on farmers affected by GM contamination of their

previously profitable productions, whether organic or


Thus, farmers living in regions where GMOs are cultivated

are in danger of considerable economic losses due to the

loss of organic certification through contamination. There

are clear examples of this across considerable distances, in

spite of farmers changing sowing times in an attempt to

avoid contamination, even if this results in reduced yields.

Taking into account the average farm income in Spain is

around €20,000 per annum, the economic losses incurred

in these examples have the potential to drive the farms

into bankruptcy. As said by Félix Ballarín a farmer in the study: “I am discouraged. I am not going to

sow maize this year. I can take on a

certain amount of risk on my capital,

but not this much…”

Another farmer in the study was the victim of contamination

from GM Maize grown in the region, in spite of his

precautions in sowing his crop later in the year. The case

of this farmer, Eduardo Campayo, has a clear further

downstream effect on the finely balanced rural economy

of the region: “[The contamination] generates huge economic

loss – the economic capacity of several people and

small businesses is based on the GM-free character

of my grain. If my maize is contaminated again this

year, I will not grow the crop next year. I am sorry

for my buyers who more or less depend on me”

Economic damage is not restricted to organic farming.

Farmers cultivating conventional maize for the gluten

market have lost up to 18 euros a ton when their crop and

or harvest have been contaminated by GM maize and

have then been sold for animal feedstuffs given that no

agro-food industries want to buy GM maize for gluten.

(See COAG et al document quoted above).

Domino effects of contamination

The two case studies outlined above had clear and

concrete subsequent impacts on the local economy. In

particular the case of Eduardo Campayo, whose maize was

sold primarily to just one customer – The Rincon del Segura


The Rincon del Segura bakery in Albacete was a success

story in the rural economy, providing employment through

the processing of locally produced organic grains into

bread and other products, with sales of more than 1

million Euro in 2007.

At the start of 2007, the business bought a consignment of

maize from

Eduardo Campayo,

maize that had

been sown and

harvested in 2007

(see above).

When the Rincón del Segura bakery bought the maize it

had an up to date certificate of organic status. In March

2007, the Sohiscert certifier’s annual inspection of the

bakery detected contamination by transgenes in that same

consignment of maize which effectively disqualified the

bakery from selling any goods derived from

maize throughout 2007.

Due to these events, the Rincon del Segura bakery:

• stopped sales of all products derived from the

maize (flour and meal)

• informed its clients that, due to the results of

analyses, these products would not be sold by

them until they could guarantee raw materials

free of any traces of GMOs

• Returned all the maize and maize products to

the farmer, leaving the bakery’s usual clients

without supplies and causing considerable

economic damage to the bakery (and the

farmer) and loss of image with clients.

The contamination of the maize provided to the local

enterprise led to subsequent knock-on losses of market

share, continuity of production and commercial viability. It

is important that the secondary effects of the primary

impacts of GMOs (particularly through contamination) are

also considered in Socio-Economic impact assessments.

Impacts and Conclusions

The study undertaken by civil society organisations both

in France and Spain indicated some alarming tendencies

in the socio-economic impacts of GM crops.

Lack of responsibility

• liability for contamination resting with the

contaminated – in all cases where farmer’s crops

were contaminated leading to economic losses for

the farmer, the liability rested not with the

“polluter” but with the “polluted”

• lack of information regarding location of GM fields

– lack of registration of GM crops in local and

regional areas led to confusion over locations of

GM fields. Governments do not have transparent

or effective systems in place to identify where GM

crops are being grown

• contamination of seeds sold by conventional seed

companies (leading to crop contamination) – in

one alarming example from Spain seeds purchased

from a local supplier (and thought to be

conventional) were in fact contaminated by


• lack of possibility of insurance on non-GM crops for


Loss of beneficial practices

• Loss of local organic production – in some areas of

Spain it is becoming impossible to source locally

grown organic maize for animal feeds or other

uses, reducing the capacity of the rural economy to

develop interdependence and economic


•The loss of native seeds and varieties essential to

maintaining local and regional biodiversity.

• Difficulties for seed growers and producers;

patenting of genetic parts of plants and varieties

accelerates the concentration of companies in the

seed industry, and the increased need for analysis

and segregation of production makes the work of

seed producers economically much more difficult.

• Possible disappearance of non-GM seeds from

markets. This has occurred in many countries

which have allowed GM seeds. In Europe most

forecasts suggest that if no legal changes are

introduced, a high percent of seeds will be GM in

the future.

It seems clear from the socio-economic impact reports

which have been developed over the last number of

years that there are serious concerns over GM cultivation

which go far beyond the scientific analysis up until now

undertaken by EU institutions, which has itself often been

insufficient and flawed.

GMOs are used by large companies to privatise seeds at

the expense of the food sovereignty of peoples and rural

communities throughout the world. Their goal is to

control people’s access to food.

An increasing number of scientific studies prove that

GMOs are harmful to health and the environment and

that, by contaminating other crops, they endanger

biodiversity. Co-existence between an agriculture with

GMOs and GM-free agriculture is impossible. Introducing

socio-economic information completes the picture

regards the negative impacts of GMOs.

To this end the European Coordination Via

Campesina is calling for a permanent ban on GMO

cultivation and import in the European Union and

supports the call for a similar ban worldwide.


Josie Riffaud : +33613105291

Andoni García: +34636451569

This article is also available in: French