NEWS

GMOs are a part of the food chain, openly or covertly

Despite opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we are already consuming these products as indifference, omissions and pressure from various quarters have opened several windows of opportunity for them to slip into the food chain. Although Greece’s prefectural governments have declared themselves «GMO-free» and the Ministry for Agricultural Development and Food has declared itself against GM products, generous quantities of GMOs are being imported. Frequent «mistakes» are made either in farming or in the import of non-approved varieties, and the European Commission continues to go ahead in approving new varieties. According to ministry data released in response to questions from Communist Party deputies, over 300,000 tons of GMOs entered Greece in less than a year, most of which were used in animal fodder, mainly originating in Argentina. A small quantity of imported GM soya seed was used directly for human consumption either as soya oil or in the form of soya lecithin. The importation of these products is not illegal since these specific varieties have been approved by the EU and bear the required documentation. In fact, since they are used for animal fodder, the end animal product (milk, meat, cheese) does not require labelling to the effect that the animals have been fed with GMO products; this according to EU law, passed with the support of Greece when Giorgos Drys was Agriculture Minister. When GMOs are included as components of the food, no mention need be made of that fact on the label as long as their percentage of the product is less than 0.9 percent. This is how GMOs are ending up on our plates, no matter how much we or the government might disapprove. As for the cultivation of GM varieties, which all prefectures in the country have rejected, the ministry has categorically expressed its opposition. «We are against the cultivation of genetically modified varieties,» said Deputy Minister Alexandros Kontos. «This is not in the interests of Greek farming, which naturally cannot compete with the agriculture of the USA with regard to scale.» At the same time, while the EU recently approved 17 genetically modified corn hybrids (MON 810) for cultivation within the EU, on March 3 the Government Gazette published a decision by Greece’s Agricultural Development Ministry banning the cultivation of these hybrids in Greece for at least two years, a ban also imposed by other member states. Just over a week ago, however, the US admitted it had mistakenly exported a quantity of a genetically modified cornseed variety (Bt10) that had not been approved by the EU, for a pilot cultivation program in France and Spain. The news caused a stir within the European Food Authority, which issued a warning to the member states, since the cultivation of a non-approved variety meant that inspections had not taken place nor tests made as to the effects on health and the environment. In China, farmers have unwittingly been cultivating genetically modified rice. According to Greenpeace, the GM rice was «leaked» by a small group of scientists. The variety in question has not been inspected for its suitability for human consumption.