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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs