Progress in Cyprus, Madiera, Sweden, and Scotland

May 2011

No GMO Potatoes in Sweden - Greenpeace
Protest in Sweden. Photo from Flickr
A landmark, unanimous vote by the government of Cyprus has passed a law making it compulsory to display GM foods on separate shelves in supermarkets.

The new bill provides for a prominent sign stating clearly that the food is GM and, also, for labelling in all three languages appropriate to Cypriot culture, Greek, Turkish and English. It stipulates hefty fines for non-compliance.

Under EU legislation, each member state is free to display GM foods as it sees fit. This seems to be the first time anyone has taken the initiative to use this power.

The Cypriot Green party were celebrating because the bill caps their “efforts of nine years”.

Predictably, Cyprus' GM separation bill was stopped in its tracks in 2005, after underhand threats by the US government. The president at that time was “unofficially” “strongly urged” by Washington to make sure such a law never got through parliament, because Cypriot-US relations would be damaged. The US embassy expressed concern that separation of GM foods (most of which are produced in America) would stigmatise them.

The legal move in Cyprus follows another European GM landmark last year when Madeira became the first territory to be given formal permission to remain completely free of GM organisms.

Portugal told the European Commission that:
"the risk to nature presented by the deliberate release of GMOs is so dangerous and poses such a threat to the environmental and ecological health of Madeira, that it is not worthwhile risking their use, either directly in the agricultural sector or even on an experimental basis."
Part of Madeira's case rests on the country's status as a UN-designated World Heritage Site due to its unique subtropical laurel trees, once widespread in Europe. The Island's significant earnings from tourists who come to see the forest would, of course, be as threatened by any GM infiltration as its natural biodiversity.

Another first in the EU has just rolled off the press. Swedish livestock producers and food manufacturers have volunteered not to permit GM feed to be used for their animals. After a long campaign by the Swedish Consumer Coalition which included a boycott of cheap imported meat and strong lobbying by the GM-soya importer supplying a few intensive pig farms, the biggest slaughterhouse company has decided to stop accepting GM-fed pigs and other slaughterhouses have declared their intention to do likewise.

OUR COMMENT

These cases mark the unofficial beginning of EU member states lawfully taking control of GM in their own lands. They set a precedent which might be contagious and which America would rather not see.

Protection of the natural environment, safeguarding of the tourist industry, respect for consumer opinion, and upholding the people's right to choose what they buy and eat are all at the heart of the well-being of Scotland just as much as Cyprus, Madeira and Sweden.

Fortunately, we have the Scottish National Party now fully in power, whose position on GM is clear: 

“While the SNP are open to examining the possibilities, and have no problem with laboratory trials, they are not convinced by the case for this particular technology. There remain too many unknowns in terms of health and environmental risks; consumers have made it clear that they do not want GM products on their shelves or in their fields; and the seed multinationals have grossly oversold the potential of GM: they have had most of the rest of the world outside Europe to play with and have come up with very little.”

Scotland will remain GM-free, safe, and prosperous if its government keeps listening to its people, and if people keep demanding adherence to the present practical and precautionary approach.

SOURCES
  • Elias Hazou, Separate shelves for GM foods is not law, www.cyprus-mail.com, 8.04.11
  • James Kanter, E.U. Signals Big Shift on genetically Modified Crops, New York Times, 9.05.10
  • E-mail from Alyn Smith MEP, SNP headquarters, Edinburgh, 18.04.11
  • Bengt Ingerstam, Sweden will soon be GM-free! Swedish Consumer Coalition, 28.04.11

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