Once again, genetically engineered corn is to end up on our fields and plates – which is not only undemocratic, but also involves incalculable risks
You can’t eat as much as you want to throw up. At least in the case of genetically modified corn. This is once again on the current menu of EU politicians: even without the planned free trade agreement (TTIP) with the U.S., Brussels is pulling the plug on its lobbyists – already on 6. November 2013, the EU had decided to ban the import of the genetically manipulated corn variety "SmartStax" approved as feed and food (EU Commission approves the controversial SmartStax corn variety as feed and food). The smart corn can produce six insecticides and is resistant to the weed killers glyphosate (Roundup) and glufosinate. The question of who manufactures these poisons is almost self-evident: the US agricultural companies Monsanto and Dow Agroscience, of course.
Currently, the genetically modified corn "1507" (Herculex(R) I Insect Protection) as another treat on the EU’s menu. Served by the US company Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., one of the world’s grower developers and suppliers of crops and seeds. Like "SmartStax" also produced "1507" Insecticides that are particularly deadly to the corn borer, a butterfly species that consumes about 4 percent of the world’s corn crop each year. The Bt toxin in "1507" also attacks bees (Does a scorpion save the honey bee??) and other insects to.
This toxin is normally produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and is also permitted in organic farming because of its natural origin. In the case of genetically modified corn, however, the toxin is produced permanently and by all plant cells, which is why the pollen – with which the bees feed themselves and their brood – has high concentrations. Beekeepers’ associations warn strongly against the introduction of a new plant.
The import and sale of "1507" as food and feed has been allowed in the EU for a long time. Now the cultivation is also to be approved: On 5. February 2014, the black-red federal government will decide how it wants to proceed on 11. The EU will vote on February 2014 on whether to allow the cultivation of "1507" negotiates.
Although a decision had been taken on 16. January the EU Parliament against an admission of the gene corn "1507" However, the decisive factor is the vote of the ministers of the EU countries, i.e. the decision of the EU Council of Ministers. If no agreement is reached, the EU Commission will decide – and, as the past has shown, it is very open to genetically modified plants.
The population, however, firmly rejects the gene poison cocktails: According to a recent representative survey conducted by the Society for Consumer Research on behalf of Greenpeace, 88.1 of German citizens are against the introduction of genetically modified plants in Germany. In addition, 88.4 percent demand that Germany vote against the 1507 genetically modified corn in the EU. Greenpeace points to shortcomings in the safety assessment and procedural errors.
And what do our elected representatives say?? "We recognize the reservations of the majority of the population about green genetic engineering", it says laconically in the coalition agreement of the Grand Coalition (page 123). Otherwise, the profit motive and undemocratic decisions that coldly ignore the clear will of the people – let alone take into account health risks to humans, animals and plants – prevail.
Rough demand for energy (agrofuel) and meat makes corn monocultures profitable
Once a genetically modified organism is released into the environment, there is no going back. The genetic material can never be removed again. Pollen is carried by the wind for kilometers and can, for example, contaminate the biofields of the neighbor, as has already happened many times. There is a regulation for organic food that tolerates only 0.9% adventitious admixture of genetically modified plants, and for good reason. Actually, organic producers and consumers want 0% genetic engineering on their plates, but this is already unrealistic today.
And not only organic farmers are affected: In October, five Bavarian beekeepers failed in their lawsuit before the Federal Administrative Court: More than four percent of their honey was contaminated with "MON-810"-pollen, whereupon they were not allowed to sell it. Reason: The pollen is not approved as food. The court did not grant the beekeepers any compensation either. "We want our bees to be protected from genetic engineering, the legislature has so far failed to provide this protection, as has now the Federal Administrative Court", explained Karl Heinz Bablok, one of the beekeepers concerned.
Corn monocultures grown for biomass and feed production are a breeding ground for multidrug-resistant pests. Only through years of overexploitation of nature could the insects adapt to the poisons. There are no winners in this pointless arms race. Only responsible cultivation in diverse crop rotations can prevent defeat in this test of strength. But this is opposed by financial interests: The crude demand for energy (agrofuel) and meat makes these monocultures profitable. This not only aggravates the pest problem, but also endangers the environment. Corn starts to grow late. Therefore, the soil is particularly vulnerable to erosion by wind and rain, and valuable humus is lost. Moreover, cornfields are agro-ecological wastes with low biodiversity. The poorer such a system is, the more susceptible it is to pests, because their antagonists have no habitat.
Long-term effects are still unknown
The health effects of GM corn when used as feed and food are largely unexplored. In the worst case, the genetically modified plants could lead to allergies, miscarriages or even cancer if they enter the human body directly through the meat eaten by the farm animals or through cornstarches.
Although the long-term consequences are unclear, it is clear that genetically modified crops only benefit large corporations. They secure huge profits for them through gagging contracts with farmers. They represent a massive encroachment on nature – and on those foods we eat.
"Giving priority to the bad prognosis over the good prognosis is responsible action with regard to future generations. Because one can live without the highest good, but not with the highest ubel", warned the philosopher Hans Jonas in his work The principle of responsibility from 1979. If the risks of a technique are known, always the "highest ubel" be considered possible. All nuclear catastrophes were also previously ruled out by experts. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong, as it is not only jokingly stated in "Murphy’s Law".
Because of these risks, but also because of the massive environmental destruction and because of the unbridled hunger for money of Monsanto and Co. it is high time to ban genetic manipulation of plants without any ifs and buts. Hans Jonas’ philosophy culminates in the formulation of an extended Categorical Imperative: "Act in such a way that the effects of your actions are contractual with the permanence of real human life on earth." Cut out, hang up, take to heart!
Sarah Buron (*1986) lives in Berlin and is okolandbau graduate. Patrick Spat (*1982), lives as a freelance journalist and author in Berlin.