Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | February 1, 2008

Debate over GMOs rages on in Europe

Over 300 scientists and green lobby groups in Spain have signed a petition calling on their government to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The signatories, made up of scientists from Spanish universities and research centres, including the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and green groups, denounced the ‘dangers and impacts of the introduction [of GM crops] into the environment and on our plates’ and demanded that the Spanish government adopt measures to eradicate the cultures on its territory.
‘This is a technology that is destroying biodiversity and was a by-product of the military industry. It is lamentable that Spain is acting as a vector for introducing these cultures into Europe when it is a country rich in biodiversity,’ Eugenio Reyes, a researcher at the Botanical Garden of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, told El Mundo newspaper.

Spain currently grows 75,000 hectares of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making it Europe’s largest grower in Europe, followed by France with 22,000 hectares.
The petition comes only days after France decided to invoke an EU safeguard clause to bar a strain of GM maize after a watchdog said it had doubts about the product.
The crop in question, MON 810, is a variety of maize developed by US biotech giant Monsanto. The strain has had its genome modified to contain a gene that produces a toxin allowing it to defend itself against the corn borer, which regularly destroys maize harvests around Europe.

The decision came after France’s provisional High Authority on GMOs presented the conclusions of its study on the effect of the MON 810 crop on health and the environment. The committee, composed of 15 scientific experts, announced that it had ‘serious doubts’ about GM crops following its discovery of ‘new scientific facts relating to a negative impact on flora and fauna’.

These ‘new scientific facts’ included cross-pollination of GM and non-GM fields at local level and negative effects on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.

However, the next day saw 12 of the High Authority’s 15 scientists disagree with the Authority’s conclusions, saying they never found evidence for serious doubts or negative consequences concerning GM crops and thus criticised the way the conclusions were worded.

Under EU law, the Commission has 60 days to decide on the validity of the new scientific evidence discovered by the French committee on GMOs. If the Commission does not consider the evidence produced to be valid, it can force the country to lift its ban, unless a qualified majority against such a decision is reached in the Council of Ministers.

Austria, Germany and Poland have previously invoked the safeguard clause without success, as the Commission has never substantiated their applications. Moreover, EU environment ministers have repeatedly failed to reach a qualified majority for or against the Commission’s proposals to lift the national bans.

In October 2007, Portuguese Environment Minister Francisco Nunes Correia said that a majority of Member States oppose the Commission forcing them to lift such bans. He added that ‘the Commission proposal still prevails against the explicit will of one Member State and that is something that has to give us a pause for thought.’

The next step will be for all the Commissioners to debate GMOs in early February 2008 to clarify the EU’s policy position on the issue.




  1. NIE WEEKLY – A BIG COMPANY FOR YEARS DISREGARDS POLISH LAW – “Poland was warned by Animal Welfare Institute”

    In 1999 the largest producer of pork in the world, American corporation-Smithfield Foods – emerged on the Polish market. Smithfield Foods bought 79 per cent of shares of the Animex Company, the largest processing plant of pigs and poultry in Poland. Soon after that in our columns appeared an article on the subject of the threats to the Polish meat market carried by this concern (The “Trojan pig”, “NIE” no. 10/2000). It turns out that we foresaw many things.

    A control conducted recently by the Supreme Chamber of Control in their farms shows that they work for 10 years without permits and with the striking violation of law.

    Proven methods

    According to the unofficial counting, there are approx. 150 farms in Poland. According to the official record – 117; 13 out of which are in the international register. At Smithfield Foods pig farming is like the industrial conveyor set on mass production and great profits. In a single operation there might be up to several hundred of thousand of hogs.

    – In 1999 we as a party already protested against letting in Smithfield on our market – says Andrew Lepper. – We made the road blockades.

    The State organs, however, did not react. This means they reacted, but not in a way the farmers expected. Together with Smithfield lawyers they filed reports about crime committed and the protesting farmers had to pay fines. The peasants stopped blockades after some time. Enthusiasm of the Self-defence Party to fight the mighty concern also oddly decreased. Farmers whispered then that Lepper was bought off.

    Smithfield grew in strength in spite of letters flowing to the ministry of agriculture and environment protection from some ecological organizations. Protests by locals living within the vicinity of the farms also intensified. They ended with threatening the farmers or legal proceedings against the protesters. With time farmers could not sell anywhere their home grown pigs. Only Smithfield kindly bought slaughter animals in exchange for the farmers keeping quiet.

    Deaf, blind and mute inspectors

    Meanwhile, it quickly began to stink around the factory farms.

    Literally. Because size of the lagoons was to small to store liquid manure, the farms started pouring it onto meadows, to forest and even into rivers. At the same time protest started to pour to the local authorities and environment protection inspectorates. And nothing happened. Inspectors began losing their sight and smell. In their reports there was no information about the fact that the liquid manure was everwhere, that the left around remnants of dead animals are dragged by dogs and foxes. Nothing stank to them. Veterinary inspectors behaved similarly. Close to the Zabin farm, there were dead decaying animals on a field covered with liquid manure.Veterinary inspector did not notice this. Controls done by the sanitary inspection looked similarly.. The chief sanitary inspector did not see the contamination hazard on the controlled farms. The same goes for his colleagues.

    Huge piles of manure appeared near the village of Wieckowice. Soon there was another pile in Sieroslaw, not far from Wieckowice. Shortly after that the very farm owned by Smithfield was honored by the minister of economy with the Crystal Globe for Export Leaders. The minister of agiculture and rural development. Wojciech Olejniczak, handed over the prize.

    Not applying the smallest precaution measures, Smithfield workers piled up several huge waste dumps near the Niepruszewickie Lake. There is a sanatrium for people with respiratory conditions in Goldap. Close by emerged a manure pile.Patients are there to breathe fresh, Mazurian air… Excrements were drained off to to the meliorative ditch on one of the farms. None of the farms presented an evaluation of a chemical-agricultural station confirming that the fertilization was adequate, which is the basic document in the case of liquid manure dumping.

    Majority of the farms did not notify a sanitary inspector about the venue and kind of the led activity, did not present any testing results of drinking water, did not gave workers the required vaccinations, and even did not register the activity at the county doctor of veterinary medicine and did not keep a lodge book of animals treatment.

    Savage way

    Poisoning the environment this is only one symptom of violating the law by the factory farms owned by Smithfield.

    According to the environment protection law and the directive of IPPC (96/61 / WE) of European Union in the subject of integrated prevention and limiting of pollutants, hog farms with at least 2000 pigpens for the pigs of over 30 kilos or at least 750 pens for sows, are subject to obligatory obtainment of an integrated permit. All farms, according to a decree of minister of environment from 2003 r., should get such permit the latest til the end of December 2004.

    Great majority of Smithfield farms does not have such permit and cannot obtain it because does not even have sufficiently large lagoons, suitable protections, etc. Majority of farms did not even apply for such permits. What fort? As it started to be hot, then the minister of the environment prolonged deadline of obtainment of such permits and the farms could continue operating.

    Majority of the farms operated and still does in violation of the construction regulations, for example: they do not have permissions on the change of the way an object is used, they exceeded the range of construction work declared only as renovation, constructed new objects without construction permit – e.g. fodders silos.

    Americans warned

    Poland was warned by the American Animal Welfare Institute.

    Americans were taught by their own experience. In 1984, when the first hog factory farms appeared on the coast of North Carolina, 27,000 of individual farmers kept pigs. In 1996 there was less than 5000 of them. Number of the private producers decreased from 40 000 to 16 000 in the State of Iowa.

    There were 670 000 private producers in 1984 in the United States. The expansion of meat concerns caused 2000 small slaughter-houses to close down.

    Inhabitants of rural areas are the main enemies of agribusiness corporations in the United States; they personally tested the industrial methods of hog farming. So much that someone wanted to listen to them there.

    Factory farms pay high fines in the United States. That is why they look for different, more tolerant places to conduct their activity.

    Poland and Ukraine are most suitable because one can do anything there.

    In 1997, on one occassion 35 million pounds of meat infected with E.coli bacteria and 35 million of bacteriologically contaminated sausages were withdrawn from the market in the USA. Here, the widely known case of Constar (a firm owned by Smithfield) where ham, sausages nad meat were refreshed with oil ended up with practicly nothing accomplished. The firm that should be closed down immediately, instead of having to huge penalties, is well off and decided to sell its products under the Krakus label now.


    – These farms are fortresses – says James Skorupski from the Green Federation GAJA. – Nobody will be able to enter them from outside and the workers deadly fear to speak about what is happening there.

    The Green Federation GAJA keeps protesting from 2002. They wrote to everybody in power in this country. They presented evidence, documents, pictures. They got in touch with sixteen environmental protection inspectors personally. Without any results.

    For the past 8 years social and ecological organizations wrote to the Supreme Chamber of Control asking for the inspection of farms. No trace of this is left.

    Finally, in the second half of 2006, the Supreme Chamber of Control undertook the control on the motion of the parliamentary Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The control scrutinized the period from January 2004 until June 2006. hug the period from January 2004 to June 2006. Not only confirmed law violations and shutting eye on this of the responsible for supervision people, but also reported that animals are kept in outragous conditions. The methods of killing animals were not described, but neighbors and the workers of farms talk about throwing alive pigs to boiling water, about insertion of their heads to the mechanical crusher which shreds the brain of alive individuals.

    In April 2006, the Self-defence Party put their bill about hog factory farms and limiting their negative impact on environment to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The bill got stuck in the parliamentarian committees. In the meantime the term of office ended and the PMs accused Lepper of taking a bribe from Smithfield. It is not known, what is going on with prosecutor’s proceedings in this matter.

    Pigs are well off. These on farms also.

    J. Skibniewska
    Source: no. 4/2008.

    Parts of the Polish Supreme Chamber of Control report on supervision over
    hog factory farming in Poland

    Jurek Duszynski
    Help to People and to Animals
    Social-Ecological Movement

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