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Europe Needs Genetically Engineered Crops, Scientists Say 586

First time accepted submitter Dorianny writes in with a story about the ongoing battle over genetically engineered crops in Europe. "The European Union cannot meet its goals in agricultural policy without embracing genetically engineered crops (GMOs). That's the conclusion of scientists who write in Trends in Plant Science, a Cell Press publication, based on case studies showing that the EU is undermining its own competitiveness in the agricultural sector to its own detriment and that of its humanitarian activities in the developing world. 'Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress, ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,' said Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats in Spain."
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Europe Needs Genetically Engineered Crops, Scientists Say

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  • Pandora's box (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:15AM (#43553305)

    When the lid is opened there is no way of closing it again.

    There are certain technologies mankind is not yet responsible enough to use.

    If nuclear power leaves waste for 10000s of years... gene modification does so for the rest of existence.

    And no. Cross breeding is not the same as gene modification. There are very few herrings that mate with a tomato IRL.

    • by Destoo ( 530123 )

      > And no. Cross breeding is not the same as gene modification. There are very few herrings that mate with a tomato IRL.

      Well, if the music is right, set the mood with dim lights and candles AND you get them drunk enough, of course their genes will splice.

    • And no. Cross breeding is not the same as gene modification.

      Viruses & cosmic rays naturally cross-contaminate or modify DNA. There is no natural order as to what nature is supposed to be, or what is supposed to cross breed. Plenty of natural foods will kill you or give you cancer. It's unfair to only cite cross-breeding when there are dozens of mechanisms where genetic manipulation naturally occurs. Without the FUD, gene modification could be feeding millions in 3rd world countries.

      If this were a Pandora's box, it was opened billions of years ago.

  • "Needs"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ignacio ( 1465 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:15AM (#43553309)

    No one *needs* genetically-engineered crops, they simply result in a higher profit (and possibly various unknown health risks).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They may also result in cheaper food.

      • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:30AM (#43553373)

        Yes, moving most of your agricultural sector over to commercially proprietary seed and crop varieties will certainly result in cheaper food.

        • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:46AM (#43553811)

          Considering that farmers in Europe is destroying food to keep the price up it seems like cheaper food is a problem, not a solution.

          • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @06:44AM (#43554243)

            Considering that farmers in Europe is destroying food to keep the price up it seems like cheaper food is a problem, not a solution.

            Considering a similar practice is done in the US, it goes to show what the real purpose of GMO crops are for. To make certain patent holders obscenely rich, along with controlling the global population with a questionable food supply.

            Seems like a win-win for certain organizations in control. Not sure when the hell the rest of the world is going to wake up to that shit, but clearly with this kind of propaganda already being spread about how we "need" GMOs, obviously common sense is losing and greed is winning, at the cost of our health (which of course is the most profitable of all). What else is new.

        • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:48AM (#43554507)

          Crops don't have to be Gm to be proprietary.

          plant breeders rights have been a thing for almost a hundred years now and farmers already buy such hybrids routinely across most of Europe.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When was last time price food was of any concern in western europe???

      • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:00AM (#43553567)

        We'll keep that in mind once some disease wipes out the entire Monsanto Wheat (tm) monoculture is wiped out by some plant disease or pathogen and causes widespread shortages. Our crops might be less efficient, but we have diversity, and our farmers are free to farm instead of bothering with patents and lawsuits.

      • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:04AM (#43553607) Journal

        Cheaper food for how long, until the company that has the GM patent has 50% of food production, 80%, 100%? It's a one way ticket to economic disaster, let alone the long term health and ecological impact that nobody knows.

        Nature wants bio-diversity, not the junk that GM is.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by HungryHobo ( 1314109 )

          until the patent expires.
          You know patents expire right?

          You're free to cross some Flavr Savr tomatoes with whatever collection of hybrid seeds you like to breed whatever hybrid you like with the addition of the GM genes. You can breed whatever diverse collection of plants you like with or without GM.

      • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:13AM (#43553659)

        When, in the history of commerce, has cheaper means of production ever meant cheaper end product if there wasn't a pressing need due to competition? It is highly unlikely that the cheaper production will eventually reach the consumer. Even if the original producers have to slave away at dumping prices, the margin will easily be gobbled up by the people in between to ensure nothing remains when you can finally buy something in a store.

        • Cheaper production always reaches the consumers unless there is a regulation preventing competition like a patent. That's the nature of a market. Food, cars, housing, computers, energy, cell phones, water, clothes, media all get cheaper in real terms.

    • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:41AM (#43553449)
      Soooo if I can grow less crops with less pesticides in the same block of land leaving the rest for nature is a bad thing ? How about we all go organic and have the population settle at the 2 billion and solve another problem as well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        No one wants to admit they're a malthusian, but people who are against GE crops generally are.

      • Re:"Needs"? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:14AM (#43553671) Homepage

        Soooo if I can grow less crops with less pesticides in the same block of land leaving the rest for nature is a bad thing ?

        You are definitely not a farmer. Less pesticides AHAHAHAHA. GMO is all about planting seeds that are super resistant to special proprietary pesticides. After that you spray the fuck out of your fields without worrying about the yield.
        You dont have to worry about weeds nor your plants dying from too much crop dusting. You have to worry about re buying seeds every single year and getting addicted to Roundup.

        Basically its the same scam as juicing healthy cows with antibiotics.

        • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tehdaemon ( 753808 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @05:54AM (#43554071)

          You have opened your mouth and removed all doubt, you are a fool.

          Virtually all crop plants, GMO or not, are highly resistant to pesticides. Pesticides kill bugs, usually insects, not plants. You can't even get the basic terms correct. It is so bad I am wondering if I am feeding a troll...

          You are confusing pesticides with herbicides - stuff used to kill weeds - and some GMO crops engineered to be resistant to roundup. Glyphosate (aka 'roundup') is one of the safest and cheapest herbicides available. GMO crops resistant to it let farmers use safer, cheaper, and LESS herbicide than they would otherwise use. Not more, as your ignorant rant claimed. How is that bad? Oh, and the US patent expired years ago. It isn't proprietary anymore - please keep up with the times.

          There are actual problems with GMO crops today. They all have to do with patents, lawyers and big greedy corporations. There are potential problems with the safety of GMO crops, but so far they are just potential problems, all known GMO crops in production today have proven to be extremely safe for human consumption, and better - usually much better - for the environment.

          Your concern about 'buying seeds every year' is extremely misguided and mostly wrong. Most farmers buy seed each year anyway, GMO or not. It is cheaper to let someone else deal with producing quality seeds and just get yield. There was some talk years ago about 'terminator' genes that would prevent GMO plants from producing viable seeds. DRM for plants if you will. This is one of those potential problems. It has never been used. Worry about it if it shows up, worry about it if Monsanto starts talking about it again. Don't worry about it in the fields today, 'cause it doesn't exist there. Lying and fear-mongering about it makes you no better than Monsanto.


          • Re:"Needs"? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) * on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:30AM (#43554751) Journal

            You have opened your mouth and removed all doubt, you are a fool.

            Start your post with an insult, nice way to show your own arrogance.

            Virtually all crop plants, GMO or not, are highly resistant to pesticides. Pesticides kill bugs, usually insects, not plants.

            Wrong. The main GM plant that people moan about is GM Soya made by Monsanto. They created GM soya as normal soya was killed if you used roundup weed killer on it. So Monsanto create a GM crop to increase their weedkiller sales.

            Ok, you could argue that there is a difference between a pesticide and a weed killer but that is just being pedantic. The truth is the parent poster kind of had a point, they just screwed up by saying "Pesticide" when they should have said "WeedKiller". Interestingly wikipedia has the following to say about pesticides:

            "A pesticide is generally a chemical or biological agent (such as a virus, bacterium, antimicrobial or disinfectant) that through its effect deters, incapacitates, kills or otherwise discourages pests. Target pests can include insects, plant pathogens, weeds, mollusks, birds, mammals, fish, nematodes (roundworms), and microbes that destroy property, cause nuisance, spread disease or are vectors for disease. Although there are benefits to the use of pesticides, some also have drawbacks, such as potential toxicity to humans and other animals. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides."

            So many people seem to consider it fair enough to call something a "pesticide" when the actual pest being killed is a weed. I know the correct term would be herbicide but hey, who am I to argue with wikipedia :)

            You might want to read the following, paying particular attention to the section on Glyphosphate resistant crops: []

            Your concern about 'buying seeds every year' is extremely misguided and mostly wrong. Most farmers buy seed each year anyway, GMO or not.

            That is also arguable. That might be the norm in the intensive farming in the developed world but it is not the case everywhere.

            I think he was referring to the spate of farmers suicides in India where using seeds from a previous harvest is more common:'_suicides_in_India []. This was actually blamed on them not knowing they were buying seeds where the crops would produce sterile seeds so that a year after the bought the crop they planted a load of duds that did not grow.

            I am not entirely sure why a bunch of farmers started killing themselves in far away country, but keeping some of your seeds from a previous harvest is still common in the case of third world subsistence farming it seems.

            Personally I am not sure I agree with all of the anti GM lobby or not, but you were an insulting twat when it was not warranted as some of what he was saying actually had a basis in fact. You could have more politely corrected him without calling him a fool, especially since your post was very light on factual content and evidence itself. I am being deliberately insulting to let you know how it feels, but have tried to include more references to some of my assertions.

    • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:52AM (#43553525)

      No one *needs* genetically-engineered crops, they simply result in a higher profit (and possibly various unknown health risks).

      I'm waiting for the follow-up story that tells us who funds these scientists.

    • Re:"Needs"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:15AM (#43553673)

      I was wondering the same. For years the EU had problems with overproduction, and suddenly there's a shortage? So you mean all those subsidies to farmers who can't get rid of their production (which the EU "has to" buy to "ease" their suffering) wasn't necessary because we need more production anyway.

      Someone is lying here. It's either the EU or the EU.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        The EU never had overproduction, it simply maintained production at a level where if there was need it could feed itself. While there isn't a need some of that production is destroyed or used for non-food purposes like biofuel, but we need that capacity to guarantee our food supply and not become beholden to the rest of the world.

        • Pffft ...
          The EU allways had and likely still will for a long time have an overproduction of roughly 100% on everything.
          Since 30 years we try to cut it down and balance it. Since 15 years we work harder on cutting it down (e.g no butter storages anymore. 20 years ago the EU had storages for butter holding 2 years of total EU consumption).
          During the cold war the EU tried to have a hughe overproduction (and storage capacity) in case a war breaks out and germany and france get overrun by russians.
          We still have

  • Eh, what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:19AM (#43553323)

    EU pays farmers for not growing stuff because it it produces too much food. There have been surpluses for decades, only recently they have been depleted because of the world market.

    Yes, obviously there are imports, but only in winter time or for exotic fruits.

    • Re:Eh, what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by DustinB ( 220805 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:39AM (#43553427) Homepage

      Very true. Production is not the bottleneck; it's distribution which often times is hindered due to political reasons. We are not at peak production either.

    • Most of EU gm imports are grains for animal feed. If farmers were forced to raise their livestock with non-gm crops, prices would skyrocket.
      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        Nope they won't. They would increase to the amount of so called organic meat. Yes, this would result in higher meat prices for those who shop at Aldi, Tesco or any other discounter. However, it would also result in lower meat consumption, which is an important goal when considering health issues due to too much meat consumption. In consequence, the meat production farms, for example in the north west of Germany, would have to decrease their production and stop polluting the air and groundwater with their an

    • Re:Eh, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:53AM (#43553533)

      Yep, saying Europe needs GMO crops is ridiculous when it ends up with massive surplus each year that it has literally nothing to use for other than destroy.

      If anything we should be working to get those stockpiles to places that really need it like parts of Africa, then they wont need GMO crops either.

      • Re:Eh, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:13AM (#43553663) Homepage
        Then we can drive the African farmers out of business, because nobody can compete with free.
    • by Pecisk ( 688001 )

      For what I have heard, this is kinda mixed bag. There's stuff that gets destroyed due of quotas (like milk), but not in so much big quantities as we like to believe. However, in EU all farming is heavily subsided. In result we don't know actual cost.

      Personally I would see Europe clean up subside mess more than allowing GMO. It's much urgent problem.

      • Of course they are subsidised, otherwise you'd have to rely for your food sources on unstable developing countries who can employ farmers for $5 a week. This is a strategic requirement, maintaining food independence. In practical terms Europe has far more food and fresh water than it can use, and could produce a great deal more if needed. The story is bunk.

  • And does their name begin with M? Also, when does this obsession with profit and short termism start to wane over long term stewardship? As a species, we are getting so fucked up. In history we used to wonder how once great nations could possibly collapse back to nothing, well here it is on a global scale.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He does R&D for the big M

  • by lfourrier ( 209630 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:24AM (#43553353)
    ... IP laws where removed so as to prevent the monopolization of species when (not if, look for the literature) genes jump from GMO to naturally occuring varieties.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:30AM (#43553375)

    1. The world, and the EU, produce plenty of food. People in certain areas do not have enough food due to problems in the food distribution system.

    2. 90%+ of GMO food is either herbicide resistant or produces its own insecticide. It's focus is not producing more or better food. Yes, this could change some day, but that's how it is and has been for a long time.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:36AM (#43553405) Journal

    Except the people that sell them...

  • I call BS on this (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the EU has a food surplus for decades

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:39AM (#43553425)

    First, this guy developed the first transgenic soybean, which has then been sold by Monsanto ( [] ). What else is he gonna say?
    Then, there's enough food everywhere for everybody provided : it's seasonal, regional and mostly vegetarian.
    Sure, if you want huge steaks for every meal, with tomato salads, mango and strawberries for dessert all year round, you'll need a lot of antibiotics, pesticides, GMO's, oil and water.

  • by Moabz ( 1480009 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:39AM (#43553433)
    Paul Christou

    He received a first class honors degree in Chemistry (University of London) followed by a PhD in plant biochemistry (UCL, London) in 1980. Following postdoctoral research at UCL, he joined one of the very first plant biotechnology companies, Cetus Madison Corp (subsequently Agracetus, Inc.) Madison Wisconsin, USA. He led a research group which achieved the first genetically transformed staple crop (soybean). Subsequently his team developed a variety-independent gene transfer method for rice. These two achievements had a significant impact, as the first transgenic soybean on the US and global markets sold by Monsanto was a direct output of his group’s research efforts.
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:40AM (#43553439)

    Problem is complex. There's general fear of anything related with "genetic modification", because of this theme exploited so heavily in tabloids, junk and paperback sci-fi, and by conservative politicans betting heavily on science fearing crowd. And then there's huge greedy corporations like Monsanto, which are blinded by gold rush in this field. Then there's politicians, desperate to have at least some kind of investment in countries, relaxing some rules so far that it's really irresponsible.

    In overall, GMO debate has almost same semantics as nuclear one. Done right, this field would really do right for humanity. However, there's that very strong question - can we really do right for humanity? It seems that we as society don't trust ourselves - or current capitalistic system we embrace.

    So, this is actually discussion "we don't trust multinational corporations to do theoretically dangerous stuff", not "is GMO good or bad", isn't it? However no one discuss corporations, because it's well...just not worth it. Because when money talks, everyone asks how high to jump (including media).

    • Much as it pains me to say it, being a major non GMO fan, you're not far wrong. It's the business practices, rush to market, lack of controls etc that's the issue but I suspect that's not going to go away any time soon.
  • by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:43AM (#43553465)

    "ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture"

    What kind of propaganda-soaked, bullshit statement is that? So for the past 4000 years humanity has been performing natural, "unsustainable" agriculture? The whole article reeks so much of bundles of pharmaceutical 100 dollar bills that it stinks.

    • by ecbpro ( 919207 )
      I don't know if you noticed, but most of the past 4000 years people were starving to death thanks to "natural" agriculture: []
      It is only thanks to the advancement of science and technology that we are not starving anymore. GMOs are just the next logical step in that development.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, no surprise here, considering this:
    and this:
    According to this cables story, Spain and 'Murrica work closely together to get Europe to adapt GM-crops.
    F*** them. They all should choke on their GM shit.

  • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:01AM (#43553579)

    There is already today an excess of food production. People do not starve because there is not enough food, they starve because they are not given the food, usually because they are too poor to afford it, or because their supply lines have been cut by wars or embargoes. There is no need to increase world food production, only to get the food to those needing it.

  • Matt Riley of "The Rational Optimist" ( also argues for increased use of GM crops. GM crops can produce higher yields, using fewer insecticides and chemicals than even organic foods do.

    Of course, the question is: what will we do with this increased yield? If we use it to convert redundant farm land into nature reserves and green spaces, then I'm all for it. If we use it to help ourselves to a nice population burst, then hell no.

  • This works like the cabinet shop on the corner. The owner can not compete if he pays his workers more than what he suspects his competitors
    pay their workers. So if Europe does not apply the most modern methods in raising food the food providers will be out of business in short order.
    Since food is vital in essence Europe has no real option. Whether it is good, safe, moral or wise are not even part of the decision process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @04:32AM (#43553761)

    Mega bullshit! Europe is easily able to feed its own 450 million people with traditional crops. Hungary alone is able to feed its own 9.9 million and a further 14 million via exports, even though she has less territory than Maryland. Luckily Hungary has recently put into her national constitution that genetically altered crops are banned. Even if Monsanto bribes the European Union politicians, we will not let GMO into our country. Those lands where they were utilized previously have been torched and plowed over on government decree.

    Remain GMO-free if you want to live!

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @05:52AM (#43554065)

    Well, the guy is certainly 'pro' GM foods, as you would expect from his background, but 'OMG Europe won't be able to feed itself'?
    Hardly. We've been paying farmers a fortune for years to let good farmland stand idle... The problem is not with the crops, it's the crazy CAP which distorts everything, including world trade. For example:

    "In the autumn of 2007 the European Commission was reported to be considering a proposal to limit subsidies to individual landowners and factory farms to around £300,000. Some factory farms and large estates would be affected in the UK, as there are over 20 farms/estates which receive £500,000 or more from the EU." []

    Anyway, back on topic, it seems to me that the GM debate is like the nuclear one. On one side, the promise of a bright, science-led future, (limitless clean energy, cheap disease-free crops) with real or potential problems often glossed over or ignored, on the other the NIMBYs and hand-wavers with a "we're all gonna die" reflex. Where's the reasoned debate?

    People don't trust the nuclear industry for a good reason, (and I say this as a firm believer in the promise of nuclear power over alternatives). It's not just about Three Mile Island etc, it's about how too many people have systematically covered-up shoddy work over the years, often to save or make more money.
    These people should have been severly punished; none were. Seen any TEPCO Execs hanging from a tree recently? Nope.

    It's the same with GM food. I'm sure the Scientists are sincere and have done great work, including field tests. But can we trust the agribusiness? Well, recent history (especially in Europe) says no. But it's too late anyway - even food advertsied as 'GM free' is not. []

    Remember, this is also the same industry that brought you horsemeat labelled as beef. Oh yeah, and even when it really is beef, remember BSE ('mad cow' disease?) []

    So, do I trust the technology? Yes. Do I trust the agribusiness? Hell no.

  • Alternatively... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @05:53AM (#43554069)
    So this guy says we need to make more food? Is this so it can just be thrown away like we do currently? []

    Maybe if we did a better job of using what we make, this would be a total non problem (not that it is anyway, unless your a Monsanto salesman)
  • by Rubinhood ( 977039 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @06:55AM (#43554271)

    The GMO producing companies are the most evil entities in the world.

    They keep suing farmers when the wind blows their cr@p on other people's land. The fertilizers that keep their seeds going are a natural disaster for the soil, for the animals and all other crops in the vicinity. They forced a law in the US that doesn't even *allow* people to find out whether the product they buy is GM or not. They bait new customers with low prices, then when those farmers can no longer switch back to natural seeds, they ruin them. They expressly want natural seeds to die out so the whole world has to buy from them: they are sworn enemies of natural seeds because farmers can save those.

    I trust natural selection. I don't trust greedy corporations that don't care about anyone or anything else. If you want the truth about them, read the stories of farmers who battled their army of lawyers for years. Percy Schmeiser's moving story at [] is a good start.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel