Germany Rightly Skewered for GMO Nonsense; Kudos for WSJ

By Gil Ross — Aug 31, 2015
German green zealots have taken over the asylum, mandating a ban on GMOs, thanks to an EU dictum allowing each nation to make that decision independent of the overall EU policy. A Wall Street Journal editorial assesses the situation tersely, but accurately: Germany vs. Science.

AgBiotechAn editorial in Monday's Wall Street Journal, entitled Germany Versus Science, summarizes the European Union's decades-long flight from science indeed from common sense and consistency. These un- or even anti-science positions are driven by many idées fixes, baseless myths and superstitions, promulgated by so-called "consumer groups" and by deep green "environmentalists," allegedly concerned about Mother Earth. Although many are even more deeply concerned with generating scare headlines for the sake of garnering publicity and adherents, i.e., greed.

An excellent example of this is skewered in the WSJ piece, with the editor-authors simply taking note of the proponents of the German-GMO ban's own statements to condemn them. Those proponents say they support the GMO ban based on the inane doctrine of "food democracy" (but science is not a democracy) and the even-less romantic, but perhaps more-accurate policy of the ban, promoting "sustainable, resilient organic food production that doesn't perpetuate the overuse of toxic herbicides."

Aha! There's the key. As with most (if not all) of the "grassroots" and "consumer" opposition to GMO/biotech improvements in agriculture, the major promoter of anti-GMO hysteria is Big Organic, the multi-billion dollar... oops, euro ...mega-industry. Despite the burgeoning income of organics spurred by consumer fears of GMOs, the fat-cat organic lobbyists nonetheless feel no shame in attacking "Big Agribusiness," as epitomized by Monsanto, as the source of all Evil in the world, especially in Europe.

This is now official German policy, despite these facts from the Journal editorial:

"Back in reality, EU scientific and food-safety authorities have repeatedly cleared various GMO crops for human and animal consumption. The process often takes months to complete, and in 95% of cases EU regulators ask producers for more evidence before greenlighting GMOs, so it s hardly a rubber stamp."

These pontifications are entirely separate from another major inspiration for the risible ban: trade protectionism. Since this rationale, while immensely powerful among those in the agricultural industry's back rooms, is anathema in the public fora where "free trade" is the dominant policy, fomenting popular antipathy to GMOs as a surrogate to protect "real German" crops from outside "pollution" functions nicely in that arena.

The editorial concludes with a dire prognostication on the likely economic ramifications both for Germany, the EU, and the U.S. in dealing with mutual trade pacts such as the upcoming negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership:

"Once concluded, the U.S.-Europe trade pact would generate an estimated ¬120 billion in European gross domestic product, but American agricultural producers might rightly be wary of a GMO regulatory patchwork across the Continent. If Europeans miss out on the jobs, growth and cheaper products that come with free trade, they ll have the green lobby to blame."

Given Germany's recent decision to shut down its safe, efficient and cheap-energy-providing nuclear industry, out of similar baseless fears dating from Fukushima, one would hope that those who are running the financial/economic sector of the major influence in the EU's banking sector are not running with the same, science- and sense-free crowd who are initiating the counterproductive, self-defeating GMO ban there. I shudder to think they might be.

For a comprehensive academic discussion of the facts about agricultural biotechnology/GMOs, read ACSH's publications here.