Monsanto Giving Up On Europe

Despite my best intentions to keep the fight over GMOs from devolving into a bunch of over-the-top rhetoric, it's really, really, really hard to look at what Monsanto/DuPont & Friends are doing and not compare it to a war. The battle lines are distinct (GMO corporations vs. consumer-minded activists), the stakes are incredibly high (what our world eats), there's plenty of propaganda being dropped (too much to sum up here within a proper parenthetical length), and the conflict has become a struggle over turf.

For instance, not only has Monsanto been trying to obtain a controlling stake in the soon-to-be-quite-profitable marijuana industry, they've also been attempting to get a foothold in the European market. (This, after all, is how corporations work; the answer to "do we have enough money yet?" is a boisterous "no!" followed by a slap in the face for asking such a silly question.) To spread their wings across the globe, they've been taking the tactics that work here in the U.S. -- attempting to court/buy lobbyists to help guide the laws in their direction -- and trying to translate them overseas.

But what makes the European theater of war different, is that their tactics didn't work.

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Monsanto recently announced they'll no longer be trying to apply to grow new GM-crops in Europe. This brings to a screeching halt their attempt to develop "six types of corn, a soybean variety, and a modified sugar beet" in the European market. Instead:

Monsanto will now focus its European efforts on its conventional agriculture business and on enabling the import of GM crops for use as animal feed, a widespread EU practice that is less controversial than cultivating the crops in European fields.

As is the case with any business, the top dog in the field dictates how the rest will line up. Thusly, DuPont has also essentially quit the European game for the time being. So, if you're in the anti-GMO camp, your reaction should be as follows: "Hooray! We win! The battle is over! Let's all get on the plane, go home, kiss our significant other -- or others, I don't know how you live your life! -- and have a good night's sleep!"

But.

This "win" is not the happy ending that comes with any Katherine Heigl movie. It's more reminiscent of the finale of "The Wire," actually. (And if you need a warning about spoilers for a TV show that (a) enough people should have guilt-tripped you into watching by now; and (b) is five years in the ground, consider this as that.) That show's end had plenty of happy moments: Bubbles is welcomed back into his family; Daniels and Rhonda still together; McNulty retired; the evil Marlo left without street cred; Carcetti a newly-elected Governor. But those small victories are couched in the knowledge that nothing in the city of Baltimore -- more accurately, the War on Drugs -- has really changed.

Small victories do not mean the war is over.

So, despite the good news on the European front for anti-GMO activists, there's still an awful lot to be weary about. Namely, the fact that Monsanto/Dupont & Friends have taken whatever investments they were planning on making in Europe and shifting them elsewhere.

First on the list: Africa, where Monsanto has attempted to flood the continent's markets with their Roundup product. (And we've already seen what kinds of court battles come on the heels of that.) DuPont, meanwhile, spent their new reservoir of cash to buy a controlling share of South Africa's largest seed company, Pannar:

It gives the chemicals company a large handhold over maize, one of the most important crops on the continent, three-quarters of which is already genetically modified. DuPont, through its Pioneer Hi-Bred division, now has control over one of the largest collections of genetic resources for the crop.

Also, Africa isn't the only place on the globe where GMO corporations are trying to expand:

Monsanto has also made a $150 million investment in the Ukraine where it is bringing Europe's largest seed production plant on line.

So, no. The battle has not been won with GMOs withdrawal from Europe. The focal point has just shifted slightly.

As far as what to do with this news? Well, the next March Against Monsanto is set to take place Saturday, October 12. Checking it out -- and if you're in L.A., here's information about where to go -- is a good start.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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