• Anita Hollerer-Squire

GMO - what's going on in the world?

Updated: May 12


What is genetic engineering?

Genetically modified organism - GMO - is when the genes from one species are extracted and inserted into the genes of a different species.

It sounds a bit like a sci-fi movie to me - with human growth genes being inserted into fish or livestock to make them grow faster; flounder genes into tomatoes so they can be stored at lower temperatures or pesticide genes into corn and other vegetables to resist pests - what is that going to do to us when we consume this?

Who benefits from GMO?

Genetic engineering is all about profit - and the only ones benefiting from it are the big corporations pocketing the money. One of the biggest - and instrumental in starting the whole GMO saga - is Monsanto. They own the majority of the worlds GMO crops and seeds. Monsanto also owns the weed killer "Roundup", which they can conveniently use on their insect-resistant corn etc. They spent billions of dollars to keep our lawmakers from labelling GMO foods and for paying scientists to come up with studies that show that we don't need to be concerned about our safety.

To top it all of, Monsanto and some of the other biotech companies foster relationships with regulators in the Dept. of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food & Drug Administration and move positions from their companies to those government agencies and back again - so they can influence policy making.

Other big players in the GMO field are DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science amongst others.

How it started:

The first genetically modified crop plant was produced in 1982, an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. The first field trials occurred in France and the USA in 1986, when tobacco plants were engineered for herbicide resistance. China was the first country to allow commercialized transgenic plants, introducing a virus-resistant tobacco in 1992, which was withdrawn in 1997. The first genetically modified crop approved for sale in the U.S., in 1994, was theFlavrSavr tomato. It had a longer shelf life, because it took longer to soften after ripening. In 1994, the European Union approved tobacco engineered to be resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, making it the first commercially genetically engineered crop marketed in Europe. In 1995, Bt Potato was approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, making it the country's first pesticide producing crop. In 1995 canola with modified oil composition (Calgene), Bt maize (Ciba-Geigy), bromoxynil-resistant cotton (Calgene), Bt cotton (Monsanto), glyphosate-resistant soybeans (Monsanto), virus-resistant squash (Asgrow), and additional delayed ripening tomatoes (DNAP, Zeneca/Peto, and Monsanto) were approved. As of mid-1996, a total of 35 approvals had been granted to commercially grow 8 transgenic crops and one flower crop (carnation), with 8 different traits in 6 countries plus the EU.

The nations growing GM plants on the largest field areas are:

  • USA (over 70 million hectares)

  • Brazil (over 40 million hectares)

  • Argentina (over 24 million hectares)

  • India (over 11 million hectares)

  • Canada (over 10 million hectares)

  • China (over 4 million hectares)

Europe:

In Europe, Monsantos maize is the only GMO crop grown - and that only in Spain and Portugal. Small field trials also take place in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia.

Germany, Sweden, Britain and the Czech Republic have been approved for GE potatoes, however there has been a lot of opposition to it.

In October 2015, 19 EU countries declared that they will be GMO free. Those countries are Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.

Belgium and the UK are applying the opt-out rule for only part of their their territories, while Germany requested a partial opt-out in order to pursue more GMO research.

Russia:

The world's largest nation has formally declared all commercial planting of genetically modified organisms to be prohibited.

According to official statistics the share of GMO in the Russian food industry has declined from 12 percent to just 0.01 percent over the past 10 years, and currently there are just 57 registered food products containing GMO in the country.

Africa:

South Africa is the major grower of GMO crops in Africa. Smaller amounts are also grown in Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan.

In 2011 Kenya passed a law that allows the production and importation of GM crops - this was followed by Ghana and Nigeria a year later. Cameroon, Malawi and Uganda approved trials of GMO crops in 2013.

Asia:

India and China are the two largest producers of genetically modified products in Asia. India currently only grows GM cotton, while China produces GM varieties of cotton, poplar, petunia, tomato, papaya and sweet pepper. Other Asian countries that grow GM crops are Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar. GM crops were approved for commercialisation in Bangladesh in 2013 and in Vietnam and Indonesia in 2014.

Japan:

Japan does not grow GMO crops, but they do allow import of products made from GMO crops and they also allow cultivation of GM flowers.

South America:

Brazil and Argentina are the largest producers of genetically modified food behind the USA.

Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile allow GMO crops to be grown.

Venezuela banned GM seeds and Ecuador prohibited GM crops and seeds.

In 2012 Peru completely banned GMO seeds and crops for a 10 year period.

Australia:

The most commonly grown GM crops in Australia are insect resistant and herbicide tolerant cotton and herbicide tolerant canola. Other GM crops include soybean, sugarbeet, potatoes, wheat, lucerne, sufflower, rice and corn.

New Zealand:

There are currently no genetically modified commercial crops in New Zealand , and no fresh produce or meat sold that has been genetically modified. Imported food and ingredients derived from GMO's must be approved by a food safety authority and must be clearly labeled.

#GMO #geneticengineering