GM crops giant Monsanto pulls out of Europe!
- GM crops giant Monsanto pulls out of Europe
By Robert Uhlig
The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2003
Monsanto, the American pioneer of genetically modified crops, said
Wednesday it was pulling out of its European cereal seed business. The
move was widely seen as a sign that it has given up hopes of introducing
GM cereals in Europe.
It announced its decision on the eve of Thursday's publication of results
of farm-scale British evaluations of GM crops, the final and most
influential part of the Government's investigation into whether to allow
GM crops to be grown commercially. The trials, which investigated the
effect of GM maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet on farmland wildlife and
biodiversity, are expected to give a mixed verdict on the technology.
Two other Government reports on the economic benefits of growing GM crops
and on scientific understanding of their environmental and health effects
have also failed to present a strong case for rushing into commercial GM
There are also questions about the value of the GM maize trials, which
did not take the vital factor of crop yield into account.
Monsanto's announcement that it wants to sell its cereal development
stations at Cambridge, England, and in France, Germany and the Czech
Republic, followed hardening resistance to GM crops throughout Europe.
Insurers are not prepared to underwrite GM farmers, and 98 per cent of
37,000 participants in GM Nation?, a public consultation, told the
Government they did not want GM crops or food.
Jeff Cox, Monsanto's general manager for northern Europe, said the
withdrawal from Europe was to allow the company to realign its business
to "focus on those projects that will best capitalise on in its market
and technological strengths".
He said the company needed to save up to pounds 65 million and would be
making one in 11 of its workers redundant worldwide.
When Monsanto bought Plant Breeding International Cambridge from Unilever
in 1998, Hugh Grant, then president of Monsanto's agricultural division,
said GM crops would be commercial reality in Britain by this year.
Anti-GM lobbyists said the withdrawal was a sign that Monsanto was
"throwing in the towel" in Europe. They said that with Canadian farmers
campaigning against licensing Monsanto's GM wheat, the company was also
facing severe resistance in North America.
Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said Monsanto was ``pulling out
after five years with no products to show and no test sites for Monsanto
GM cereals in Britain this year''.
He said: "They are clearly backing off GM wheat in Europe, where until
now they were the pioneer."
This week Margot Wallstrom, the European Union's environment
commissioner, accused American biotechnology firms of lying about the
benefits of GM technology and ``trying to force it on people''.
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