The world’s largest producer of seeds, Monsanto, has apparently given up
on attempts to spread its genetically modified plant varieties in
Europe. A German media report said the firm would end all lobbying for
The German newspaper “taz” reported Friday that US agriculture behemoth
Monsanto had dropped any plans to have farmers grow its genetically
modified (GM) plant varieties in Europe.
Monsanto Europe spokesman Brandon Mitchener was quoted as saying the
company would no longer engage in any lobbying fur such plants on the
continent, adding that at the moment the firm was unwilling to apply for
approval of any GM plants.
This is very curious. Monsanto may be many things, but it is not a company that gives up. However, there is a clue in the last sentence of the above quotation: “at the moment the firm was unwilling to apply for
approval of any GM plants”. That suggests this is only a temporary halt, and that it will be back.
So why might it do that? Is there anything happening that might have triggered this move?
Why, yes: TAFTA/TTIP. In fact, the issue of GM crops is likely to be one of the biggest sticking points. The US side is insisting that “Sanitary and Phytosanitary” (SPS) measures must address GM foodstuffs, with the European side adamant that it won’t drop its precautionary principle.
So how might that apparent contradiction be resolved? A recent meeting on SPS gives a clue:
WTO members celebrated the 50th anniversary of
186-member Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for
food safety, by calling, on 27–28 June 2013, for continued support for
the body, and for trade measures to be based on science.The calls came in a two-day meeting of the
WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee, which
consists of all 159 WTO members and deals with food safety and animal
and plant health — measures having an increasing impact on trade.
“The increase in the number of SPS measures
that are not based on international standards, guidelines and
recommendations, or that lack scientific justification, is a point of
concern that has often been raised by many members in the SPS Committee
and other contexts,” Brazil observed.The discussion of the six new
specific trade concerns and the 10 previously raised and discussed in
this meeting reflected that theme.
They covered; processed meat,
genetically modified organisms (GMOs), restrictions related to the
Japanese nuclear plant accident, orchid tissue culture plantlets in
flasks, citrus fruits (a complaint by South Africa against the EU about
black spot, which is the first dispute settlement case in the
International Plant Protection Convention), offal, salmon, pesticide
residues, sheepmeat, phthalates (materials added to plastics in food
and drink containers) in wines and spirits, shrimp, mad cow disease
(BSE), GMO pollen in honey, Indonesia’s port closures, and pine trees
and other products.