The "Unity of the Left" and GMOs


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By Pilar Galindo

What future awaits peasant and ecological agriculture if we make unity of action without principles, with those that limit agriculture that produces healthy food to the mere elimination of chemical products, accepting without problems the competitiveness and the world market, seeking the niche market of consumers with high purchasing power and forgetting the majority of the population?

The "Unity of the Left" and GMOs: A Pyrrhic Victory

The Ministry of Agriculture has tried, in March and November 2004, to regulate the coexistence of transgenic crops [1] and not transgenic. On the first occasion, by Ministerial Order and under the responsibility of PP. In the second, by Royal Decree and under the government of the PSOE. In both cases, both the PP and the PSOE participated in the same intention: to legalize the coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic crops.

One of the recognized problems of genetic engineering is the instability of implanted genes. It is inevitable that transgenic crops, in the case of corn through cross-pollination, transfer the new genes from one plant to another, from one field to another and along the food chain. Therefore, the normalized coexistence of transgenic crops with non-transgenic ones means accepting the safe contamination of the former over the latter and also the transfer of genes resistant to antibiotics and pesticides. [2], from transgenic seeds to other plants and living beings. This sequence increases the risks to the health of people and of the very ecosystem of which the fields and livestock are part.

Once contamination is accepted as unavoidable, the “precautionary principle” is invoked in vain and the regulations are limited to regulating such contamination through various solutions that are part of the problem: 1) corrective measures that minimize, more or less , pollution; 2) follow-up for cases of failure or insufficient corrective measures; 3) suspension of the authorization of transgenics where their harm or unacceptable risks are proven; and 4) articulate a system of responsibility for such damages.

This regulation can be done with greater or lesser guarantees. But, both the draft of the PP and that of the PSOE, lack the necessary content to, at least, efficiently regulate said contamination. The glaring deficiencies of the mentioned texts are: 1) absence of a liability regime for economic, ecological and health damages caused by GMOs; 2) Deficit registration in the information required of farmers who plant transgenics, without sufficient advance notice to planting and without public knowledge, which prevents the establishment of precautionary measures or liability, in case of contamination and other damage to the environment and health ; 3) insufficient security measures to reduce the risks of contamination and damage to other non-transgenic crops, such as minimum distances, refuge strips to delay the resistance of pests, etc.

When in the rest of the EU countries there is hardly any presence of transgenic crops, with an express ban in some countries, the PP government has promoted, before and during the moratorium [3] European GMOs (from 6-11-1999 to 5-19-2004), a policy to promote GMOs, with a minimum transposition of Community regulations, without providing public information on the locations of commercial and experimental crops, nor do they evaluate their impact and support each and every one of the requests for authorization of transgenics in Committees and Councils of Ministers of the EU. In short, the PP government has acted with contempt for health, food and ecological safety, and the risks and damages of the extension of crops and experimentation fields.

The change of government in March 2004, has meant the transition from an active policy in favor of GMOs to a policy of ambiguous acceptance. The Spanish government has abstained in the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health and in the Council of Ministers of Agriculture of the EU, in each of the 5 authorization decisions of new transgenics after the entry of the PSOE into the Government, some of them considered very risky and that do not comply with the evaluation requirements required by current European legislation.

The first of them also involved the consent to lift the European moratorium for a maize that should not have been authorized, due to its demonstrated genetic instability, similar to another maize responsible for the death of 12 cows and which under current European regulations does not It is acceptable. From there, the European Commission has approved each and every one of the requested GMOs, without counting on the affirmative vote of the majority of the member states. [4].

Sown areas and experimental crops have not stopped growing in Spain and there are more and more cases of contamination reported. However, the government has not withdrawn any authorization to plant corn, not even as a precautionary measure. Nor in the agricultural campaign of corn that has just begun, which practically guarantees new cases of contamination this year.

Relying on the cases of contamination found in organic crops, the social organizations and collectives rejected the draft of the PP in March 2004, based on the impossibility of a GM-free agriculture in the current circumstances and called for the suspension of authorized GM crops. and the need for a moratorium on the approval of new transgenic crops, until the following is guaranteed: 1) the continuity of a transgenic-free agriculture; 2) the right of farmers to be free from transgenic contamination of their crops; and 3) the requirement of a civil liability regime for environmental, social and economic damages that, in the event of contamination, will fall on the holders of the release of transgenic crops. This initiative was supported by more than 40 collectives and organizations of a very diverse nature: agrarian, environmental, consumer, trade union and solidarity with impoverished countries.

On the contrary, in the unity of action against the draft of the PSOE of November 2004, despite the similarity of contents, the response has been more lukewarm. Almost 5 months later (March 2005), with the majority support of these organizations, a document of "minimum contents" required by the regulations of coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic has been presented. [5]. Said contents accept the contamination in exchange for a negotiation on the level of the same that is going to be accepted. The request for the withdrawal of current transgenic crops and the moratorium contained in the criticism of the draft PP has also disappeared from the text.

The conditions of this new document have focused on: 1) definition of coexistence, 2) protection of seeds, 3) distances between fields, 4) registration and sowing authorization, 5) responsibility for contamination and 6) declaration of GMO-free zones. Based on the acceptance of transgenics and the inevitable contamination, the absence of contamination is equated with the current technical level of detection -0.1% - and a greater rigor is called for in the seed sowing plots. It seems sufficient for the security and respect for the rights of farmers and residents of the neighborhood to an agriculture and food free of transgenics, to demand information, 3 months in advance, of the intention to cultivate GMOs and the identification of the plot.

At the same time, the administration itself is asked to reserve the right to suspend the authorization if there are risks of contamination or other damage. Is it that now there are none or are they not considered relevant? What must be the unacceptable level of risk or harm to require precautionary intervention from management? Regarding the regime of responsibility for damages, the absence of responsibility of farmers who plant transgenics is proposed, if they comply with the law. But is this exemption adequate when its decision is voluntary, is it based on the expectation of an immediate and superior benefit to non-transgenic crops and with knowledge of the possible damages to the point of accepting compliance with measures that are not required for non-GMO crops? Will not the seed companies argue that they also "comply" with the law and that they cannot respond in the way it has been used? The inclusion of GMO-free zones is collected from the will of the local and regional authorities and not as a social claim.

There are no reasons that justify the continuation of the authorized corn crops, much less waiving the moratorium. Every day new cases of contamination appear on non-transgenic crops, food and feed from commercial and experimental transgenic crops, almost always evidenced in organic ones, as the absence of traces of GMOs is required.

The contamination found comes from transgenic corn and soybeans, whose transgenic cultivation is not authorized in the EU, but also from transgenic proteins not authorized in the European Union, which is an indicator of the certainty of the contamination. All this with the most rigorous legislation in the world. If this situation is not stopped, the spread of transgenics to other crops will be inevitable. IN THE MEDIUM TERM, BEYOND THEIR UNFORESEEN RISKS, TRANSGENIC CROPS ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH ORGANIC CROPS. GMOs WILL MAKE ECOLOGICAL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND THE PROTECTION OF SEEDS, BOTH COMMON (FOR NON-PATENTED PUBLIC USE), AND ECOLOGICAL SEEDS.

Agricultural, environmental, consumer organizations, etc. who were in the initiative a year ago, have supported this second initiative lowering the profile of precaution. They consider it a success, because they have achieved the objective of having the Minister of Agriculture withdraw the draft of the RD on coexistence and accept as a lesser evil a low-profile document and the inclusion of phrases such as "that contamination be reduced to the minimum possible" Just because this concession has made it easier for organizations to join that did not accept the profile of the previous year's declaration. It seems that the way to increase social support for the fight against transgenics is to degrade its content. This tactic accepts the larger premise and allows GM advocates to move forward and continue on their own, without social makeup, when they see fit.

What victory is the one that, among the minimum demands of the Government, accepts contamination? With what force are we going to be able to defend, in the minute after signing this document, the absence of contamination? What will be the next reduction that environmental collectives and organizations, defenders of agroecology and responsible consumption will accept, to maintain unity of action with other groups and organizations, in order to achieve respectability and dialogue with the PSOE? What future awaits peasant and ecological agriculture if we make unity of action without principles, with those that limit agriculture that produces healthy food to the mere elimination of chemical products, accepting without problems the competitiveness and the world market, seeking the niche market of consumers with high purchasing power and forgetting the rest, who is the majority of the population?

The Self-Managed Consumption Group (GAK) of CAES, we joined in its day to the request to withdraw the draft of the Ministerial Order of March 2004. But, a year later, we have not signed the minimum document. Neither have other groups adhered, defenders, in theory and in practice, of an agriculture and a diet free of transgenics. In fairness, it is appropriate to ask ourselves the reasons for this refusal and not just celebrate the new accessions.

Our reasons for not signing this document are: 1) It does not claim the withdrawal of transgenic maize denounced for contamination that contain genes for resistance to antibiotics and pesticides; 2) It accepts coexistence and contamination and does not require the maintenance of the GM moratorium on a) crops, b) open field experimentation and c) commercialization.

The imposition of transgenics is protected precisely, in a European regulation, incapable of guaranteeing food and ecological safety and the absence of risks of the transgenics that it authorizes. This norm has a significant democratic deficit, both due to the decision-making process and due to disregard for the majority opinion of the European population, which rejects the cultivation and consumption of transgenic foods; and 3) It abandons the initiatives that claim the content of the previous points, in addition to the defense of the GMO-free zones from the social movements (“Plataforma Transgenic Fora” and “Manifesto de Fraga”) [ 6].

We expressed these reasons in the Coordinator of Agroecological Consumption Groups of Madrid, when representatives of some groups proposed that we support, as Coordinator, the document of minimums, because it was a unitary initiative at the state level and was supported by the main environmental NGOs (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Ecologists in Action).

The current approach to the imposition of transgenic crops and foods is confirmed as insufficient to address the problems of food insecurity generated by industrial agriculture, for several reasons:

1) As it is an approach locked exclusively in the internal logic of transgenics, it is dedicated to responding punctually to each legalization, each regulation, each case of contamination and does not give a strategic solution to agriculture and food, invoking the right to decide as the only argument for participation against taxation.

2) We cannot address separately, the problem of transgenics on the one hand, and on the other, the promotion of responsible and agro-ecological agriculture and food.

3) It is not enough to point out the transgenic contamination of the misnamed conventional agriculture avoiding the chemical contamination of said agriculture on the environment and human health. Most of the arguments of biotechnology multinationals in favor of transgenics are based on the comparison of the parameters of chemical agriculture and are proposed as a partial alternative, [7] some of the problems generated by it (contamination by chemicals, salinity and soil erosion, resistance of pests to pesticides, loss of crops, etc). In this way, addressing these problems from agroecological perspectives, independent of the technology of multinationals, which take into account traditional peasant knowledge, more accessible to small farmers and poor peasants and based on dialogue with nature and the poor, is prevented. with the needs of food security and sovereignty of the entire population and not only of sectors with high purchasing power.

4) Reducing the GMO debate to "coexistence" will make us increasingly powerless to solve the problems of agriculture and food. It will also reduce the defense of our food security, present and future, to the provision of evidence of its risks and damages, one by one. One way to avoid this impotence is to show its limits and articulate, at the same time, strategies to promote agroecological and responsible agriculture and nutrition outside the global market, which include awareness-raising and the participation of people and groups who want to do something more than opposing transgenics.

We do not share the reasons of the signatories of the document “Basic considerations…” of March 2005, but we are not unaware that its existence is a fact. We hope that the signatories consider, in turn, that disagreements with said document are also a fact and, consequently, facilitate the dissemination and debate of dissenting points of view by fostering a DEMOCRATIC AND PLURAL DIALOGUE between the different positions. [8]. This will facilitate the incorporation into the movement of groups that care about food security from education, health, and social participation.

* P. Galindo, GAK of CAES.
He is part of the Coordinator of Agroecological Consumption Groups of Madrid

[1] GMOs: Colloquially we call genetically modified organisms (GMOs) transgenic. GMOs are organisms manufactured in a laboratory, the product of adding genes that do not belong to their species to a living being. The relationships between the new genes of said organism and the old ones are not predictable because they have never interacted with each other in the same living being, and functions not foreseen in advance can be activated or silenced, both of the new gene and of the genes of the organism when that it is incorporated. We cannot determine what will happen in future generations of that organism, much less in the highly probable case that the new genes “jump” to a nearby organism or to the organism that feeds on them. Research on human health risks due to ingestion of organisms with genetically modified genes is very scarce. It is reduced, almost exclusively, to tests with animals in the laboratory, carried out by the biotechnology companies that benefit from the commercialization of transgenics.
[2] The method used to insert the new genes into the recipient organism uses antibiotic and pesticide resistance genes to guarantee the success of the operation.
[3] Moratorium: Period to defer or delay a decision. With this term, the period of almost 5 years has been described, in which the European Union has not authorized any new GMOs. During this period, plantings of commercial transgenic crops have been practically non-existent in Europe, with the exception of the Spanish State. However, experimental field crops have been developed in various EU countries for a wide variety of crops. The cases of contamination come from both commercial and experimental crops, and even from GMOs not authorized in the EU.
[ 4] If a qualified majority is not obtained, for or against, in the Council of Agriculture Ministers, the European Commission finalizes the decision. To date all authorizations of GMOs for food use have been controversial, even if they were not required for cultivation. All of the twenty transgenic authorizations decided in the EU have been finally approved by the European Commission, as it did not achieve a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers.
[5] "Basic considerations to include in the Spanish regulations on coexistence between genetically modified crops, conventional and organic crops" March 30, 2005.
[7] It does not eliminate the use of chemicals, it only ensures the reduction of some pesticides, which, to date, is not true. Furthermore, with the insertion of genes resistant to certain herbicides, their use in transgenic agriculture will increase.
[8] More information on Transgenic Forum:

Video: Jordan Peterson: Im no right-winger (June 2022).


  1. Muti

    Whoever said A will say B, if he is not tortured….

  2. Wicleah

    One can say infinitely on this subject.

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