Tuesday, 4 January 2011

WikiLeaks and GM Crops

In my book Eat Your Genes: How Genetically Modified Food is Entering Our Diet (Zed Books, 1998), I speculated on the pressures that the US would apply on the European Union (EU) to ensure that genetically modified (GM) crops exported from the USA were accepted in European markets, despite the widespread opposition to them among European consumers. GM crops are also called transgenic crops - food plants engineered to contain genes originally derived from other organisms.
Today, new light has been shed on this issue, via cables released by WikiLeaks. A story in The Guardian this morning (Tues 4th January) reveals how the US Ambassador in Paris, Craig Stapleton, advised Washington to start a trade war against EU countries that opposed GM crops, after France sought to ban a Monsanto GM maize in 2007.
Other WikiLeak cables show how US diplomats around the world pushed GM crops on countries as part of strategic government and commercial imperatives. The cables, in effect, show US diplomats working directly for Monsanto and other US agrobusiness corporations.
The US also lobbied the Vatican to get the Pope to declare his backing for GM crops, to undermine opposition to US exports of GM maize and soya to Catholic countries. However, key support within the Vatican was eroded as a result of the Iraq War.

The US has apparently worked closely with Spain over the years, according to other leaked diplomatic cables, in order to persuade the EU in Brussels that regulations governing GM and crop biotechnology should be relaxed.

This is still a live issue, of course, with the present UK government looking to dilute some of the restrictions on GM crops now that public opposition is perceived as being less hostile to them.
Incidentally, ‘Eat Your Genes’ still sells, in very modest quantities. There is a Spanish language version, and the rights were recently sold in Albania and Macedonia.

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