Which countries ban GMOs? Not the majority of nations, but many won’t allow GMO seeds, plants, or products to be grown or sold within their borders. The European Union (EU) is particularly strict. At least twenty-six, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia ban GMO foods. Another sixty countries place significant restrictions on GMOs. Even little Cuba, struggling to feed her people because of oppressive economic sanctions by the all-powerful U.S., has restriction on GMOs and also limits the percentage of gluten allowed in imported wheat.
(Unfortunately, the anti-GMO policy of the Cuban government is clandestinely shifting. During the last few years, GMO crops are reported to have been grown on government-run research stations.)
What are GMOs? GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms.” These include plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses, or from other plants and animals. The experimental combination of genes from different species does not occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. All commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand herbicides and/or to produce their own insecticidal chemicals. These engineered traits do not increase yield, drought tolerance, or enhance nutrition.
GMO crops have a long history. In the United States, they began to be planted extensively around 1996. Currently, GMO crops cover 125 million hectares worldwide. The world leaders in GMO agriculture are the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and Mexico.
Scientific studies in Europe linking genetically modified crops with adverse effects on the environment, as well as human and animal health, have come under fire. Critics assert that such claims are based on “contested science,” according to a recent report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC). The report from EASAC, published in June 2013, recommends that European countries “rethink” their rejection of the technology.
Environmentalists are unhappy about the report. Monsanto and Dow Chemical companies keep pushing their effort to crack the E.U.’s stand on GMOs. The fight is getting bitter.
Earth Open Source asserts there is little credible evidence to support the safety of GM foods, such as long-term animal feeding studies comparing one group of animals fed a diet containing one or more GM ingredients with a control group fed a diet containing the same ingredients in non-GM form.
The E.U. also bans antibiotics, hormones, and hormone disrupting herbicides. The U.S. allows them all to be widely used.
Europeans tend to complain of significantly less food-related illnesses than those in the United States. It’s estimated that at least 15% of American children have a distinct allergy to foods, and upwards to 30% have food sensitivities. In Canada, only 7.5% of people have food allergies. In comparison, about 5% of children in Ireland have food allergies.
Why so much trouble in the U.S., even in those who eat a healthy organic diet? It’s possible that many of our food intolerances are linked to GMO foods, additives and other chemicals, drugs and other farming practices that are banned in the E.U.
Ten Ways The EU Protects People From GMO Foods and Dangerous Chemicals
- Checks for more than 50 drug residues in shrimp. The U.S. checks for 16.
- Allows only 2 GMO crops used in breakfast cereals. The U.S. allows them all.
- Requires GMO food package labeling. The U.S. doesn’t require labeling.
- Will ban Bisphenol-A in canned goods in 2014. Still widely used in the U.S.
- Bans use and imports of antiseptic washes on meat and poultry. Widely used in the U.S.
- Bans use of hormone in beef. Widely used in the U.S.
- Bans rBGH (bovine growth hormone). Permitted in the U.S.
- Bans antibiotic sprays on fruit trees. Allowed in U.S, even for organically grown trees.
- Bans atrazine (hormone-disrupting herbicide). Widely used in the U.S.
- Banned neonicotinoid pesticides linked to honey bee colony collapse in 2013. Still used in the U.S.
GMO Labeling Rules: Food and feed must carry a label, which refers to the presence of GMOs. However, these labeling requirements do not apply to food/feed which contains, consists of, or is produced from GMOs in a proportion no higher than 0.9 % of the food/feed ingredients considered individually, and if this presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable.
Keep watch on what’s happening in Europe. The big agribusiness companies are pushing France to allow three GMO corn varieties to be planted for animal fed. This is just the start. Once they have a foot in the door, Monsanto and Dow will push harder to get more easing of GMO restrictions.
I don’t believe this is a good thing. If the world is going to use more GMO crops, we’ll need some places, like the E.U., to avoid them entirely. This is the only way we’ll find out who’s right. My guess is that that anti-GMO European environmentalists are getting it right.