Back in March, after years of political deadlock, the European Union finally passed a bill allowing the growing of genetically engineered crops by member states. However, there was a caveat: Countries wishing to opt out, could, continuing bans on these enhanced crops, but they had until October 3 to decide.
Quite expectedly, EU countries have been falling over each other to exempt themselves from the new law. Thus far, 19 out of 28 member states have reportedly done so, choosing instead to continue their long-standing protests against science. It's a list that includes Austria, Denmark, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Poland.
However, in stark contrast to that group, Romania, which has been very vocal about its acceptance of science, has announced it has opted in and is eager to grow GMOs.
For those which opt in while agreeing to the loosened GMO requirements, the EU will still control which GMOs are approved. Currently only one crop has been deemed safe for growing: Monsanto's MON 810 GM maize -- more commonly known as Bt corn. The modified corn has a gene that produces a protein which is toxic to insects, but is harmless to humans. The protein is commonly sprayed onto plants as an insecticide on organic farms.
Romania's recent decision is not unsurprising. Before joining the EU in 2007, Romania was Europe's largest GMO grower. Since then it has altered its nation's laws to comply with the EU, but scientists and farmers have been critical of that compliance on the grounds that GMOs, particularly GMO soy, had been a boon for crop yields.
Bt corn is currently grown in Romania but on a very small scale. However, the expectation is this decision will boost cultivation of the crop.
Laurentiu Baciu, president of the League of Agricultural Producers Associations in Romania (LAPAR), noted that crop yield estimates should increase at least 15-20 percent with the switch to more GMO corn.
In terms of maize production, Romania currently is second, behind France. Spain and Portugal also cultivate the bt corn.