Anti-GMO activists often point to Europe to bolster their case that GMOs are getting a ‘free pass’ by regulators in North America. Europeans are monolithically opposed to GMOs, they claim, citing as evidence that most European countries require some form of labeling and many restrict the growing or sale of genetically engineered foods.
But labeling and import restrictions are not necessarily science based; in fact in Europe, in every case, they were political restrictions, often imposed in direct opposition to Europe’s major science bodies. So, for example, while only one corn variety, Monsanto 810, is approved for commercial cultivation throughout Europe, and only five member states grow it–Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia–the European Commission has commissioned hundreds of independent studies (and reviewed more than one thousand), concluding that GM crops in general are safe:
The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.
Politicians in Germany have been particularly hostile to approving GMO crops–in direct opposition to Germany’s Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, which has stated:
In consuming food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and in the USA, the risk is in
no way higher than in the consumption of food from conventionally grown plants. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior in respect to health.
All of these swirling contradictions raise the intriguing question of: What do Europeans really think about GMOs? Are they as skeptical of the technology as is the European political establishment that has imposed restrictions based on their gauging of the winds of public opinion?
EuropeBio has created an informative infographic to address those questions.
Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, is a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, University of California-Davis. Follow @JonEntine on Twitter