Daily Management Review

The US and Europe: On the Threshold of GMO War


The United States accuses Europe of trying to undermine food security in the world; the EU proposes new rules that would allow any of the 28 members to abandon the Brussels' decision on the "open road" cultivation of genetically modified crops.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture, pointed out that such a move has caused "serious concern" about the future negotiations on the transatlantic trade.

- If we are certain about global food security, we must be serious about the science that allows us to be as productive, - said Vilsack on the eve of agriculture ministers G20 meeting, during which they will discuss issues related to improving food security in the world.

- The EU's decision potentially creates a serious obstacle to solving the problem of food security in the world - he said in the interview with FT.

- In our opinion, this is not the view on science and the laws of the system that we must be based on, - said Vilsack.

The world has made progress in solving problems such as malnutrition and food security in recent years, he said.

Nevertheless, 850 million people in the world still go hungry, as well as the world population continues to grow, and as the negative effects of climate change have loomed on the horizon, we need to do more.

The answer to this problem is to increase agricultural productivity through technological innovation, said Vilsack. The experts believe that we need to increase productivity by 60-70% by 2050 to feed 9 billion people who will live on the planet at that time.

In order to achieve this, over the next 35 years, it is necessary to increase the level of innovation in the field of food production equivalently to that the world has made in the last 10 thousand years, said Vilsack.

Europe historically has a more, than the US, skeptical attitude to genetically modified foods which greatly hindered trade in such products.

Last month, the European Commission proposed each member country of the EU to take decisions as to whether to permit or prohibit the cultivation of new varieties of genetically modified crops in its territory.

The move, which was also accompanied by a resolution of 19 additional genetically modified crops in the European Union, was perceived as a political ploy aimed at something to reconcile those who oppose GMOs, in countries such as Germany and France.

However, such a decision immediately drew strong opposition from the United States.

Since then, the authorities in Washington have expressed anger not only about the impact of this decision on transatlantic trade and investment partnership, but also spoke of the possibility of recourse to litigation through the WTO if this proposal becomes law.

On Monday in Washington, Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commissioner for Trade, defended this decision and stated that the EU is confident that it will be able to fulfill both the requirements of the WTO and the rules of internal trade.

Vilsack, who previously headed the agricultural state Iowa, said he understands that Europe and the United States have different views on GMO products.

However, "the question is not about it," he said. "The question is, if you plan to install trade relations, then you need to open a trade, you have to stick to a system based on a scientific approach, and you do not have to let the issue of culture, politics and consumer choice in negotiations ", - explained Vilsack.

Europeans and GMOs

The European Commission conducted a survey Europeans on their attitudes towards GMOs. The results showed that, in general, Europeans are suspicious and wary of genetically modified products.

The vast majority, 70% of respondents acknowledged GM products unnatural. 61% of Europeans admitted that genetically modified foods make them feel uncomfortable.

At the same time, 61% of Europeans believe that the development of GMOs should not be encouraged. And 59% disagreed with the statement that genetically modified foods are safe for health. In addition, 58% also did not agree with the statement that genetically modified foods are safe for future generations.

On average, 50% of Europeans disagree with the statement that GM foods are good for their economies. At the same time, respondents in countries such as Slovenia (78%) and Croatia (77%) expressed the greatest opposition. On the other hand, the number of dissenters is much less in countries such as Spain, - only 29%.

In addition, on average, 43% of respondents agree with the statement that GM products are helping people in developing countries, while 37% disagree with this statement.

In general, across Europe there is a high level of concern about the safety of GM products.

The majority - 58% - believe that genetically modified foods are not safe for future generations, while only 21% consider them safe. Another 21% chose the answer "do not know".

On the question of whether GM products are safe for health, the majority (59%) also considers them unsafe. However, in different countries the situation is different. In Greece (85%) and Cyprus (83%) of the highest society expresses concern about the safety of GMOs. However, there are countries where less than 50% are concerned about the safety of GM products.

source: ft.com