A few years back, it looked as though genetically modified crops were never going to take hold in Europe: fearful of their effects on human health and the wider environment, the European Union had effectively banned them. Scepticism was rising in the developing world. But now agri-biotech giant Monsanto, the dominant presence in the GM market, is reporting booming profits. Is GM making a comeback?
2010 was disastrous for Monsanto, with sales of its flagship herbicide Roundup drop by more than half. (Roundup works by killing every kind of plant except crops that are genetically resistant to it – guess who sells those?) But that was not because farmers are losing their taste for herbicides: it's because Monsanto's competitors are producing cheap generic versions of Roundup. And in the quarter ending in February, Monsanto report sales of its GM corn seeds way up in its main markets, the US and Latin America – just in time for planting season in the northern hemisphere.
The Financial Times quotes Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant as saying, “It's very clear that the US is delivering again this year… We believe we have our momentum back.”
Not so fast...
You might not think it from Mr Grant's cheery quote, but genetically modified products are still far from worldwide acceptance. Citizens and campaigners are keeping up the pressure – and getting results.
An annual industry report shows that 80% of GM crops are now grown in just four countries, all in the Americas: Canada, the US, Brazil and Argentina. Elsewhere, the aptly named Frankenfoods are still a hard sell – and, if anything, the job is getting harder.
In January, the German chemical giant BASF announced it will close its European plant biotech operations and move them to the US; in a statement, the company cited a “lack of acceptance” of GM crop technology among European farmers, consumers and politicians as its main motivation for moving. Last month, China's State Council released a revolutionary draft proposal for legislation to restrict GM grain.
Take action: Let's stop all dangerous corporate tinkering with our food. The US's Center for Food Safety is running a number of actions where citizens can get involved, among them: Tell Walmart to reject GM sweet corn!