GM coexistence in trouble in Spain
GM maize edges out organic production in Spain.
In 2006, the UK Government along with other EU member states embarked on a process of delivering a coexistence policy for GM crops alongside conventional (non-GM) and organic agriculture. The Organic Research Centre contributed a detailed response and additionally published a pamphlet – Engineering Coexistence – both of which concluded that routine cross contamination and erosion of the organic market were inevitable. New evidence from Spain shows how right we were.
A study carried out by researcher Rosa Binimelis of the UAB Institute
of Environmental Science and Technology in Barcelona analysed the application of the concept of coexistence in the maize market in the two key growing regions of Catalonia and Aragon. Last year saw the area of transgenic maize in Catalonia and Aragon was
respectively 23,000 ha and 35,900 ha, which represent 55% and 42% of the
total surface used to cultivate this crop. The variety of maize is the
GM Bt corn, designed to ward off the European corn borer, with an end use
mainly for feed production.
In these regions, the maize production process is run by cereal cooperatives, which
cover the entire production chain from the sale of seeds and inputs through to grain storage and feed manufacture. This system makes it difficult and expensive to segregate GM from organic and conventional production. There are no specific silos for organic maize while only a minority of cooperatives in the region restricts the use of GM seeds. Organic agriculture is generally expanding in Spain in both the number of producers and in area. In the case of maize though this trend is reversed and the area devoted to organic maize was reduced, for example, by 75% in Aragon
Rosa Binimelis’s Barcelona analysis reveals a social confrontation between proponents and opponents of GM technology regarding the consequences it can have and the
measures to be taken in regulating and taking responsibility for any cases
of contamination. The study highlights the difficulties organic farmers face in order to claim compensation for GM contamination due to technical uncertainties in measuring the level of such contamination or its origin. She also points to social reasons where
many farmers who could sue for damages prefer not to do so in order to avoid
serious local confrontations in small villages.
The study concludes that both the concept of coexistence and different implementation proposals have generated new problems instead of solving existing conflicts. It also highlights the single-minded promotion of genetically modified farming in Spain over any other (organic/conventional) alternative.
Interestingly a new report from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has also looked at the growing of GM maize in Spain. It found in less than 12 per cent of the study sample was yield data from the GM maize statistically higher than conventional. The revenue, gross margin, effects of growing the GM maize ranged from neutral (no increase) to a high figure of 122 euros extra per hectare.