The world’s largest producer of seeds, Monsanto, has apparently given up
on attempts to spread its genetically modified plant varieties in Europe. A German media report said the firm would end all lobbying for approval.
The German newspaper “taz” reported Friday that US agriculture behemoth Monsanto had dropped any plans to have farmers grow its genetically modified (GM) plant varieties in Europe.
Monsanto Europe spokesman Brandon Mitchener was quoted as saying the company would no longer engage in any lobbying fur such plants on the continent, adding that at the moment the firm was unwilling to apply for
approval of any GM plants.
This is very curious.Â Monsanto may be many things, but it is not a company thatÂ gives up.Â However, there is a clue in the last sentence of the above quotation: “at the moment the firm was unwilling to apply for
approval of any GM plants”. That suggests this is only a temporary halt, and that it will be back.
So why might it do that? Is there anything happening that might have triggered this move?
Why, yes: TAFTA/TTIP.Â In fact, the issue of GM crops is likely to be one of the biggest sticking points.Â The US side is insisting that “Sanitary and Phytosanitary” (SPS) measures must address GM foodstuffs, with the European side adamant that it won’t drop its precautionary principle.
So how might that apparent contradiction be resolved?Â A recent meeting on SPS gives a clue:
WTO members celebrated the 50th anniversary of 186-member Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food safety, by calling, on 27â€“28 June 2013, for continued support for the body, and for trade measures to be based on science.The calls came in a two-day meeting of the WTOâ€™s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee, which consists of all 159 WTO members and deals with food safety and animal and plant health â€” measures having an increasing impact on trade.Â
â€œThe increase in the number of SPS measures that are not based on international standards, guidelines and recommendations, or that lack scientific justification, is a point of concern that has often been raised by many members in the SPS Committee
and other contexts,â€ Brazil observed.The discussion of the six new specific trade concerns and the 10 previously raised and discussed in this meeting reflected that theme.
They covered; processed meat, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), restrictions related to the Japanese nuclear plant accident, orchid tissue culture plantlets in flasks, citrus fruits (a complaint by South Africa against the EU about
black spot, which is the first dispute settlement case in the International Plant Protection Convention), offal, salmon, pesticide residues, sheepmeat, phthalates (materials added to plastics in food and drink containers) in wines and spirits, shrimp, mad cow disease (BSE), GMO pollen in honey, Indonesiaâ€™s port closures, and pine trees and other products.