NEWS

The ‘modified’ position of Greece on GM crops

Four years ago, Greece led a de facto moratorium on the approval of new varieties of genetically modified organisms for circulation in the European Union. Then-Deputy Environment Minister Theodoros Koliopanos managed to unite another six European Union member states behind this political decision, despite many objections. The de facto moratorium was imposed because there was insufficient scientific proof of the safety of these products or adequate legislation to protect consumers. Since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. The EU has drawn up new legislation while the US stepped up pressure, culminating in its recourse to the World Trade Organization, despite the absence of any new scientific evidence. At least as far as Greece is concerned, there have been no studies indicating the effectiveness of, or even the need to adopt, this technology. A few days ago, among a number of other proclamations and promises to have Greece and its people approach the European norm, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the same person who has defended the need for Greek agriculture to invest in quality products, said: «Spectacular achievements in biotechnology and the production of genetically modified organisms in farming, farm products and food have focused the debate on the future of the food-farming sector on the major issue of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. Our strategy for the development of Greek farming and the countryside must therefore include specific action on confronting the challenges raised by the development of biotechnology and making decisions by means of transparent procedures and the development of information and telecommunications technology on food farming.» Why has Greece’s position changed so drastically? Why does the prime minister refer to products about which so many reservations have been expressed by a large percentage of the scientific community as «spectacular achievements»? What makes him ignore the fact that farm plots are small and therefore the cultivation of GM crops is sure to cause problems?