CULTIVATION OF EUROPEAN UNION APPROVED GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS IN A EUROPEAN COUNTRY IS NOT PUNISHABLE EVEN IF IT DEFIES THE COUNTRY’S POLICY
C Kameswara Rao
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education
The European Union (EU) has approved
Monsanto’s MON 810, a genetically engineered (GE) maize tolerant of the
European corn borer, for cultivation and use as farm animal feed and placed it
on its list of 'common varieties', meaning that it is legal
for farmers to grow it in all the EU countries. The European Food Safety Authority’s GMO
Panel, even in a recent assessment, considers that MON 810 maize and its
products used as food and feed are as safe as traditional maize and its
While there is no outright ban
on the cultivation of MON 810 in the United Kingdom (UK), the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) voted to keep
In January 2009, the news that Jonathon A Harrington, who
farms near Hay-on-Wye, Powys,
in Wales, (
Harrington chose two varieties of MON 810 from the EU’s approved list, obtained the seed from
Harrington described his action as a reaction to the virtual ban of even EU approved GE crops by the WAG and as a direct action in favour of GE crops, to ‘try and shake some sense into our (Welch) political leaders.’ Harrington defended his under cover action on that he was afraid of ‘being raided by the loonies’, in the face of high-profile incidents in the UK in which protesters have torn up GM crops in field trials.
Friends of the Earth Cymru, the Welsh environmental wing, condemned Harrington’s action and ‘as some aspects of accounting for the GM crops may not have been followed and so this may be actionable’, and urged the WAG to investigate the situation. They charged that Harrington failed to register with the authorities, but Harrington claimed that as he was commercially growing only approved crops and not as a trial, he was not required to inform the authorities of the location.
Following Harrington’s comments on BBC
Radio 4's Today programme in January 2009, the
WAG admitted that it could not legally ban GM crops, but had a ‘restrictive GM
Nevertheless, officers of the Local Trading Standards Service quickly acted obtaining a Magistrate’s authority to confiscate some maize seeds, two computers, Harrington’s diary from 2008, some business records and various other materials. The Powys Council said it had followed up ‘numerous complaints concerning cross contamination and crops being fed to stock’.
A recent BBC report (August 5, 2009) informs that the Powys Council’s Trading Standards Service said that it fully investigated the charge that Harrington had passed GM crops onto other farmers to use as animal feed, but ‘had found no evidence that GM crops had been circulated to other farms’ in the Powys area.
Jonathon Harrington is now off the hook, and showed that EU approved GE crops cannot be banned by member countries of the EU, but the impact of his action elsewhere is to be awaited.
Denis Murphy, a biotechnologist at the
The attitude of the farmers in the rest of the world
is no different, they grow what they think is best for them. Excessive
regulation and bans based on political and ideological grounds are a futile
exercise as they do not deter the farmers in the long run. Years before Harrington’s bold action,
illegal Bt cotton was on the field in the
August 7, 2009