News / Europe

In Europe, Debate Intensifies Over GMO Food Imports from US

FILE - Juergen Hambrecht (R), CEO of German chemical company BASF, poses with CFO Kurt Bock during the annual news conference in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
FILE - Juergen Hambrecht (R), CEO of German chemical company BASF, poses with CFO Kurt Bock during the annual news conference in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
Ana Hontz-Ward
The European Union has some of the strictest regulations in the world for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, requiring extensive testing, labeling and monitoring of all food products whose DNA has been manipulated in labs. The debate has intensified this year with the EU and United States negotiating a free-trade agreement that, many hope, will eventually allow American GMOs into the European Union. 

Frederick Schmidt owns 170 hectares of farmland in Finten, a small agricultural community outside Frankfurt, Germany.

His farm is well known in the area not only for the delicious apples, peaches and pears but also for vegetables like asparagus. Most of Schmidt's customers are locals, people from neighboring villages and supermarkets in the Frankfurt area. He credits the quality of his fruit and vegetables to respecting and working with nature.

“On my farm we pay a lot of attention to sustainability, that means I have to keep this land," he explained, " what’s in it and its biodiversity for the next generations so they can be successful farmers, as well. The quality of the land is most important, what we have here has to be dealt with wisely and preserved for the future.”

Ever since GMO crops started expanding in the 1980s and 90s, German farmers remained opposed to genetically engineered fruit and vegetables for fear of health risks and environmental contamination.

Despite repeated efforts by the U.S. and Canada to export GMO crops to the EU, they have been met with strong opposition. And, the issue resurfaced this summer as the United States and the European Union started negotiations in Washington on a free trade agreement and possible GMO food imports like corn, soy and sugar beets from the United States.

“For the Europe side, this is a pretty sensitive issue because there are so many people in our countries who have an adverse opinion about genetically engineered crops and that of course is a political factor in this debate, no doubt about it,” explained Thomas Schmidt, a food and agriculture expert at the German Embassy in Washington, DC.

According to a European Union study, 75 percent of Germans are opposed to consuming or expanding genetically modified crops.

A type of maize engineered by chemical giant Monsanto was banned in 2009 and Amflora, a GMO potato developed by the company BASF was grown by one German farmer in 2010 and 2011 then abandoned. Opposition has been so strong that last year chemical giant BASF moved its bio tech division from Germany to the United States.

For German resident Kristine Koster, 28, not eating genetically modified foods is a matter of principle.

“I would gladly pay a few more euros for food that is as natural as possible, organic, without pesticides, without GMOs," she admitted. "This is very important to me. I don’t want to eat any genetically modified anything.”

Critics inside the European Union, including Spain where GMO crops are currently grown, say that Europe has to embrace genetically engineering or lag behind economically. They also point out that while banning GMO crops in Europe, the EU depends on imports of genetically engineered corn from the US, soybean from South America and animal feed from Argentina.

When asked if he expects a breakthrough in the ongoing EU-U.S. free trade negotiations, Thomas Schmidt said a compromise will be difficult.

“I am cautiously optimistic. We should always keep in mind that trade and agriculture is only 4 percent of the overall trade of the United States with the European Union," he noted. "We should not let 4 bpercent of trade take over 96 percent of trade. We should be aware that we have differences and we should find ways to live with these differences by harming trade as little as possible.”

The European Union is currently the largest importer of goods from the United States and a possible deal between the two on GMO food imports from the U.S. would have a significant economic impact on both sides of the Atlantic. The free trade agreement negotiations are expected to be finalized by the end of 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
November 14, 2013 2:07 PM
The GMO business lobbies that GMO warning labels are NOT put on the GMO degenerated „food“. Why is that? Why would it be so important for them that nobody knows what food is GMO degenerated? Why would they want to be free to secretly sell GMO degenerated shit to uninformed consumers?

by: SAM from: Canada
October 24, 2013 4:04 PM
Here in Canada, all food chain - stores are selling nothing but GMO food. I stopped eating zucchini, soya, corn, etc.The quantity of clean produce from local organic farms are small and very-very expensive.Our politicians do not care what we eat.
In Response

by: Laurent from: France
October 25, 2013 1:00 PM
Canada... who cares what you do..?? keep importing Arabs and Muslims into your country...

by: Lemur from: Romania
October 24, 2013 1:58 PM
It seems that the Europeans wait to see if some bad things will happen with americans who eats GMO before to accept kind of crops in Europe.

by: O'Bryan from: Kansas
October 24, 2013 11:42 AM
There is no scientific evidence that GMO foods are harmful to the consumer in any way. This is not a debate. My statement is correct, and until there is a real, peer reviewed and published scientific study that finds that GMO foods are in any way harmful to the consumer, there will be no credible evidence. I am tired of this garbage fear-mongering. Governments are not experts on science, and neither are people with "opinions" on GMO's. Real scientists are experts.
In Response

by: Bill from: USA
October 29, 2013 10:01 PM
Where is the long peer reviewed study that proves their safe?

by: Mrs. Kay Bottomburp from: USA
October 24, 2013 11:14 AM
Ever wonder why NONE of the GLOBAL ELITES eat GMO, drink FLUORIDE in the tap water, or take the thimerisol (MERCURY) laden vaccines??????????? There is no wonder, you dumb sheeple, all of these things are a EUGENICS PROGRAM, by the Regime for population kill you. PROVEN FACT!!

by: Dr. Cornphart PhD from: USA
October 24, 2013 11:10 AM
Anyone with half a brain in their head, which has not yet been destroyed by GMO's, knows to outright ban them! GMO=cancer, clinically proven. Don't believe it? Then keep feeding it to yourself and kids and watch the EUGENICS CANCER come on inevitably. The TRUTH exists, only FALSEHOOD needs to be invented.

by: Monsanto=CANCER from: USA
October 24, 2013 11:02 AM
Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. That’s the conclusion of a shocking new study that looked at the long-term effects of consuming Monsanto’s genetically modified corn. The study has been deemed “the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats.” News of the horrifying findings is spreading like wildfire across the internet, with even the mainstream media seemingly in shock over the photos of rats with multiple grotesque tumors… tumors so large the rats even had difficulty breathing in some cases. GMOs may be the new thalidomide.

“Monsanto Roundup weedkiller and GM maize implicated in ‘shocking’ new cancer study” wrote The Grocery, a popular UK publication. (…) It reported, “Scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females.” The Daily Mail reported, “Fresh row over GM foods as French study claims rats fed the controversial crops suffered tumors.” (…)

It goes on to say: “The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.”

by: Monica from: USA
October 24, 2013 10:10 AM
the European look slightly genetically modified... are we still feeding these revolting idiots...? hey Europe, go get your food from China...!!! or Russia - with the Chernobil contamination... and by the way - we listen to your conversation.... LOL
In Response

by: Bill from: USA
October 29, 2013 10:25 PM
Too bad these revolting idiots are eating healthier than you and are probably going to outlive you. Enjoy that double whopper with cheese along with your high fructose corn syrup.

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