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.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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 control..................to 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. (http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/topics/technology-and-supply-chain/monsant…) 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.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2205509/Fresh-fears-GM…)

    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.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora