Transgenics, how is Europe and how are we?

Transgenics, how is Europe and how are we?

By Pilar Galindo

The transgenic potato "Amflora" from the multinational BASF, which contains two genes for antibiotic resistance, will be used to produce amylopectin, a starch used to make paper. Due to the weakness of the movement against transgenics, the Spanish State is the spearhead of the biotechnology industry in Europe and we are the first EU country in experimental transgenic crops in the open air.

The Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Union, John Dalli, inaugurated his position on March 2, 2010, authorizing 3 imports of genetically modified corn from Monsanto and the commercial planting of the transgenic potato "Amflora" from the multinational BASF. This potato, which contains two antibiotic resistance genes, will be used to produce amylopectin, a starch used to make paper. According to BASF, this starch will reduce the consumption of water, additives and energy in the production of paper and will mean 30 million euros in contracts for European potato producers.

John Dalli defends this potato because the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) maintains that "it is unlikely that the 2 antibiotic resistance markers will have effects on human health and the environment." However, European regulations on transgenics require eliminating these markers since 2001 if they constitute a health risk. The European Medicines Agency, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have warned of the risk of rendering antibiotics for human and animal use unusable Two scientists from the EASA panel of experts on biological risks have disagreed, although they have not been allowed to express themselves publicly. Their discrepancies have been hidden after a joint opinion of the GMOs and Biological Hazards Panels.

The transgenic potato does not produce much more starch than any other potato. BASF could have eliminated antibiotic resistance markers because there are other alternatives. He has not done it to save costs and because no one has forced him. France, Italy and other EU member countries reject this decision. In order to silence dissenting governments (this is not the case in the Spanish state), the Commission is preparing a regulation for the summer to legalize the GMO Free Zones (ZLT), now illegal in Europe.

GMOs advance over our limitations

Because of the weakness of the movement against transgenics, the Spanish State is the spearhead of the biotechnology industry in Europe. We have 80,000 hectares of transgenic maize (in 2009, 5% more than 2008) and we are the first country in the EU in experimental crops with transgenics in the open air. Beyond the fact that the PSOE government clearly supports transgenic crops and foods to the point of breaching the law, that the biotechnology industry is in good health and is promoted these days by the hand of foundations that make Days to insist on "The future of transgenic food and crops ”(International Symposium in Madrid, 13 and 14, 2010) (1), these 80,000 hectares are sown voluntarily by farmers.

In the days before the anti-transgenic state demonstration last year (April 18, 2009) in Zaragoza, Germany joined the countries that prevented the cultivation of Mon-810 transgenic corn in Europe. The fact that such decisive and veteran EU countries as France, Germany and Italy, together with Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Ireland and Greece block authorized GMO maize, means nothing and shows where our rhetorical claims lead. bureaucracies.

Right to decide what?

Appeal to the right to information and to decide on the part of consumers and producers, as defended by the Andalusian Platform Free of GMOs, but also those who claim to represent anticapitalist and self-managed agroecology supporting our bureaucracies, is to accept that the will of crop producers GMOs is above the precautionary principle. Argentine soybean landowners have already shown how far they can go if the government only asks them to give up part of their profits to compensate the population they are subjecting to food poisoning and genocide.

The GAKs have been pointing out for years (2) the “dangers” of an anti-transgenic fight based on double language and limited to defending the GMO-Free Zones in Europe and the right to decide of their producers and consumers.

The GMO Free Zones seek to protect their territory, their consumers and their products. But by not questioning transgenic production outside their territory, they facilitate the peaceful coexistence of transgenic and non-transgenic countries in the global market. The simple defense of “a diet without GMOs”, far from stopping the global advance of GMOs, stimulates their introduction in some countries. The fear of GMOs promotes an exclusive “GMO-free” market. (Zones Free of GMOs, lights and shadows ”Magazine We Ask The Word, Nov 2009 (3)).

The ZLT statement alone has its pros and cons. Its greatest advantage is that it becomes a starting point. This will be the case if its declaration is promoted as part of a public awareness campaign of the risks of transgenic food, seeking the support and incorporation of social groups, with the intention of creating in said territory a movement against transgenics that is propose more actions, without losing sight of the relationship between our globalized ways of eating and the uncontrolled proliferation of transgenics in impoverished countries. But if the ZLT declaration is an end in itself and is carried out in a bureaucratic way, adding to the groups already convinced to start said declaration from the institutions, instead of being part of the solution, the campaign becomes a drill capable of coexisting peacefully with the increase of transgenics in fields, imports and food. The result gives the appearance of life to a dead social movement. The declaration of Zones Free of Transgenic "Crops" does not preclude experimental transgenic crops that also contaminate. It also does not face the import of genetically modified raw materials or transgenic food for people and animals, which does not prevent contamination in the food chain. It is worrying that the anti-transgenic movement is reduced to promoting statements by ZLT and calling for the application of the safeguard clause to MON-810 corn, currently in cultivation, which sees the number of its detractors grow. Congratulating oneself on the increase in regions with LTZs, more media than real, without preventing the continued cultivation and importation of transgenic food, does a disservice to the anti-transgenic movements of those countries that cultivate the transgenics that we import from Europe.

The growth of members of the "Forum of GMO-free European regions", made up of institutions that have made statements without promoting spaces for social struggle, serves to pretend that we are doing something while the advance of GMOs continues unabated, both in Spain and in the EU. Not only because of the promotion of agrofuels that genetic engineering entails, but also because of the offensive to open imports of transgenic corn for animal feed, which, in some proto-transgenic forums, qualify as the “key door” for the future authorization of the crop. This friendly face creates the reassuring feeling that we are winning the battle because more and more countries (Romania, France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Italy) are availing themselves of the safeguard clause to "ban" certain transgenic crops (which are not experimentation or commercialization of transgenic foods in their countries) and more and more areas are declared free (only for commercial cultivation). This "positive" but biased information provokes in citizens and social movements the feeling that the ZLTs are not only necessary but also sufficient measures. The result of this mystification does not benefit the movement against GMOs but rather the biotechnology industry that will even end up supporting the declaration of certain GMO-free zones in protected areas, etc. as long as you have access to the rest of the territories. We need to strengthen a movement against GMOs that goes further. (What are the GMO-Free Zones for, in "The Anti-GMO Movement, Story of a Failure", April 17, 2008). (4)

Faced with freedom of choice, prohibition

The GAKs and the Ecological Chickpea defend the total prohibition of transgenic crops and foods both in production, import and consumption (5):

• because they are a danger to the environment. The insects and herbs that they fight become resistant to their “toxins” that, in turn, contaminate other plants, bacteria and microorganisms in the soil with their insecticidal, herbicide and antibiotic components.

• because its current risks to human, animal and plant health are certain and, in the medium term, unpredictable.

• because the Argentine transgenic soybean crops that we import into the EU to feed our industrial production of pigs, chickens and eggs, for biofuels and for cosmetic uses are causing cancer, genetic malformations and respiratory diseases in nearby rural populations.

• Because GMOs are part of the globalized agro-industrial model that causes hunger and food diseases.

• because talking in rich countries to prohibit cultivation, without mentioning importation and consumption, is to favor transgenic agriculture in poor countries, transferring the damage there so that, in the end, they end up being sold here. Without prohibiting importation and consumption here, good intentions about food labeling or discussion about the conditions for an impossible safe coexistence, are the back door through which transgenics slip into the Spanish state and explain why we are at the same time. head of Europe in its cultivation.

We need to look ahead

The anti-transgenic unit maintained in front of the PP governments should never have been broken to negotiate a law of coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic crops with the PSOE government in 2005 (6) and end up pleading in 2009 to the Ombudsman, to defend us against GMOs. Although in May 2007, with the first promotion for the signature of the document “Democracy, precaution and environment” (7) the supporters of negotiating coexistence in 2005 jointly announced that it was impossible, this declaration was limited to making a statement without demanding measures to the government. Those of us who wanted to join this declaration claiming this requirement, not only did we not succeed, but we were also erased from the signatures for disagreeing with a declaration as unitary as it was useless (8). The "plural" left, hegemonized by the PSOE, is moved only by electoral interests against the PP, perverting any social or ecological purpose. For the good of all, the time has come to admit mistakes. Even today the promoters of this strategy maintain a pathetic doublespeak from which "transgenic no, but yes" is derived (9). The time has come to look ahead. Unity is necessary, but on an integral and transparent basis, accompanied by a real commitment to really stop, and not just by word of mouth, the production, consumption and importation of transgenic products. The anti-transgenic unit is incompatible with the absence of a self-criticism regarding the reckless, erroneous and sectarian policies that broke the movement, created conflicts between us and strengthened the biotech multinationals.

For the second year, the COAG calls us to mobilize in Madrid, on April 17, Day of the Peasant Struggles, under the slogan NO TO TRANSGENICS and provides us with free transportation. When will COAG begin to ask its farmers to stop planting transgenic corn and to lend themselves to experimental crops? Will COAG ask its farmers not to plant the BASF potato to defend the health of people and the environment? When will the agrarian bureaucracies begin to question the amount of pesticides used on so-called conventional crops? Who will protect organic farmers from GM contamination? Why, if the majority agrarian unions in Catalonia are against transgenics, has the cultivation of transgenic corn grown by 11% in the last year?

The COAG we already know what it is. The real problem is us, who call ourselves responsible consumers and agroecological producers. What kind of movement of agroecological producers and consumers is it that is placed under the tutelage of large organizations, bureaucratized, supported with funds from the state and Europe and in fact committed to an industrialized, commercialized and globalized agriculture and food?

Let's go to the Madrid demonstration proclaiming loud and clear:



Pilar Galindo, La Garbancita Ecológica - - 7th Delivery of the Campaign against the Spanish Presidency of the EU. - APRIL 2010



(2) "No to transgenics from an initiative that promotes responsible agroecology and consumption and broad social participation" GAK de CAES, 04-21-2005. Document for debate within the organic food sector…).



(5) Manifesto for the anti-transgenic concentration in Madrid on August 26, 2009, promoted by the Union of Unions…)

(6) See some of the links that still survive on the webs:

Friends of the Earth congratulations for the support received on the BAH website;


Ecologistas en Acción no longer has the document, but it does have the trace of said negotiation: SEAE in 2009 went to the Derio Forum in Vizcaya demanding the position of the “minimum document” that they had signed to negotiate with the PSOE Government on March 29, 2005.

(7) To see the Declaration in an updated version:

(8) To see the letter sent by the GAKs adhering to said declaration,

(9) See “Enough of double language, coexistence with transgenics, no, no and no” in November 2006 originally published in the newspaper GARA and the answer “For a food and agriculture free of transgenic”

Video: GDP per capita of European countriesTOP 10 Channel (August 2021).