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Greece against GMFs

Greece has always been against genetically modified organism (GMO) crops, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis told the European head of Greenpeace, Jorgo Riss, in a letter on Monday.

Referring to a decision by the EU in February to allow the cultivation of a GMO strain of corn, which most countries opposed, Maniatis said, "Greece has always been against GMO crops, a position I endorse personally as well."

He also thanked Greenpeace for its readiness in supporting the Greek EU Presidency in improving a final compromise within the EU for all GMOs.He noted that the permit process does not allow any EU member-state to exempt itself from cultivating GMOs, therefore any solution that gives EU countries that legal option will be, politically, a significant step towards banning restrictions on GMOs at a national level.

Only two transgenic crops are authorized for cultivation in the EU, Monsanto's Bt maize, MON810 and the Amflora potato developed by BASF.

The maize was genetically modified to produce it’s own toxins against the Ostrinia nubilialis pest and the potato was developed for extra starch content, but also contains a marker gene for antibiotics resistance. 

The movement against GMOs in Greece has grown considerably over the last decade and has produced some really positive results. It is a movement which embraces a vast field of collectivities and organizations (agricultural, consumers, environmental, trade-unions and other social organizations) that co-ordinate in various ways their actions (through networks and forums) and aim at banning transgenic products.

However, after pass of EU legislation concerning “co-existence” of transgenic and non-transgenic cultivations, a concept has started to grow in Greece that the struggle should mainly focus on creating GMO-free zones and informing the consumers on the variety of genetically modified food ingredients,.

Although this particular struggle is of significant importance, we consider it to be clearly “defensive”. On the contrary, what should be a clear strategic target is the immediate implementation of the Carthagena Protocol on Biosafety, which gives the right in every country to stay away of GMOs for precautionary reasons and that would eventually ban GMOs worldwide.

As indicated by the CPE (Coordination Paysanne Europeenne – the European Sector of Via Campesina), the decision of many EU regions to declare themselves as “GMO-free” is an act of resistance to be applauded and supported. However, believing that these regions would stay clear of GMOs in the medium or long term is certainly an illusion.

Co-existence between regions with different GMOs approaches is as impossible as co-existence between fields. Therefore, we must ask all the local authorities which oppose GMOs to put pressure towards a generalized GMO-ban in a European and global level. Aperipheral ban is inadequate.

Greece banned Bt maize by making use of the safeguard clause1 according to the EU directive on the release of GMOs . In support of this ban, Greek authorities provided information raising the potential impacts of Bt maize on bee colonies and on animals fed.

The European food safety authority reviewed this information and decided that their claims were not scientifically substantiated.

In 2009, the European Commission tried to force France, Greece, Austria, and Hungary to lift bans on growing Bt maize but could not muster the majority votes of member states needed. Thereafter, a package of proposals was put forward, where the EC will keep approving GM crops (based on scientific advice from EFSA) but will enable EU member states to choose whether they will approve them for cultivation (Proposal IP/10/921).

According to the new proposal, if member states decide to ban GM crops, they should not base their decision on health or environmental grounds. A draft list for acceptable reasons for a ban prepared by the EU Commission includes seven reasons: public order, public morals, ensuring consumers can buy GM-free products, town and country planning, preservation of farming diversity, cultural and historical heritage, and vaguely-defined “social policy objectives” .

Public order and morals constitute the only reasons from the proposed list that are part of the general exceptions to the World Trade Organization (WTO) norm of trade liberalization.