Europeans Reject Genetically Engineered Crops

More than 1 million sign petition to block BASF’s Amflora potato

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Plain and simple: people do not want Dr. Frankenstein getting into the business of agriculture. Sure, the good doctor built one fine specimen of a monster, but when it comes to sugar beets and potatoes it seems most folks would rather stick with nature and forgo the jigsaw-puzzled gene mash of genetically engineered crops.

This week, the European Union’s European Commission was presented with a petition bearing the signatures of more than 1 million citizens asking that the commission stop approving genetically engineered crops, and convene a scientific body to study the modified organisms and implement regulations.

The petition will put the “European citizens’ initiative” to the test, a new rule in the EU’s constitutional treaty allowing 1 million or more citizens to request a legislative redress. The petition comes in response to the EU’s March 2010 approval of cultivation of the Amflora potato produced by BASF Plant Sciences. The Amflora potato exclusively produces a waxy starch utilized in industrial applications, although the New York Times reports that the potato’s pulp may also be used as an animal feed.

The petition follows on the heels of a major legal victory last week when a federal judge sided with Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff and ordered genetically engineered sugar beets, which had already been planted, to be destroyed.

The judge found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had violated the law when it planted hundreds of acres of genetically engineered sugar beet seedlings produced by the agriculture kingpin Monsanto. The judge’s decision stemmed from the USDA’s failure to complete environmental impact studies prior to growing the crop. The destruction of the genetically engineered sugar beets marks the first time in history that a court has made such an order.

As these two events illustrate, it is increasingly clear that societies worldwide take issue with the idea of genetically engineered crops. The unknown risks are too numerous and the profit motives of companies such as BASF and Monsanto make the idea even more unsavory.

Plus, as we all know, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster didn’t serve the doctor tea and crumpets while reciting Shakespeare sonnets—the monster asphyxiated a small boy, framed a young woman for the murder and eventually killed the doctor’s wife (who also happened to be his cousin). The moral: it’s best to leave nature alone as humans who play God often suffer the unintended (and unpleasant) consequences of their work.

More than 1 million signatures calling for an end to genetically engineered crops are presented to Commissioner of Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli at the EU Commission in Brussels.

David Lawlor was a writer in the Development department. His environmental activism stems from an affinity for nature and the deep ecology philosophy espoused by the Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess.