Carrots with more vitamins? Excellent! Corn that grows well in winter conditions? Yep. Tomatoes all year round? We would love that! Eradication of hunger all over the world – the desire of each of us. But haven’t we gone a little too far with the desire for vegetables not to veins in the air? Do we want the unattainable and do our desires clash with nature? Do we see the consequences of human action on Earth (and against Earth)? There has come a time when food is safer than ever, and trust in it is never less.
Monsanto. March against Monsanto? Sounds familiar to you? Monsanto is a producer of glyphosate, the most widely used active ingredient in herbicides. It is a chemical whose sale and use is permitted in 130 countries, and is intended to destroy unwanted weeds. Monsanto’s rapid expansion into the world market is due to the fact that many genetically modified crops have been adapted to be resistant to glyphosate, so it is mostly used where there are the most GMO crops.
Concerns are that old methods of genetic engineering, called transgenic, involve the transfer of genes from one species to another, while new methods, the so-called GMO 2.0 can delete genes, turn genes on or off, or create completely new DNA sequences on a computer. The old method of genetic engineering was mainly used to help plants resist herbicides and increase herbicide sales. The new gene-editing techniques are likely to be used in almost the same way, but with a few more “surprises”.
Genetically engineered fish and animals, hornless cattle, naturally castrated pigs and chicken eggs designed to contain a pharmaceutical agent are in the phase of genetic experimentation. That sounds scary to us. And you? However, let’s get back to herbicides.
We have written about the effects of herbicides and pesticides in general in the past two articles. In the last few years, the countries of the European Union have been waging a battle called the “ban on the use of glyphosate”, and the first member state of the Union which decided to end this battle is Austria. Glyphosate is therefore a product of Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer in 2018, and today it faces more than 9,000 lawsuits across the U.S., mostly because of claims by former farmers that their use of glyphosate led them to cancer. Government agencies around the world are waging the same controversy – does glyphosate cause cancer?
In her address, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would ban glyphosate, adding ‘that this should be achieved without overburdening farmers’. France banned the sale of Roundup (the original name for the glyphosate-based systemic herbicide) earlier this year, and French President Emmanuel Macron announced it would ban its use completely by 2021. In some countries, such as Portugal, there are partial bans, in which case it must not be used in urban parks and public spaces.
When the most developed countries of the world start thinking out loud about issues related to GMO products by asking questions like: do herbicides cause malignant diseases?; Are they harming the human body?; Can they solve the issue of world hunger?; Is it normal to transplant animal genes into plants?; we have nothing left but to think about that a little bit closer. Because, it is known that “where there is smoke, there is a fire too”.
Namely, we have witnessed how in the last 20 years people have become increasingly ill and dying from various types of cancer. Sometimes it seems to us that almost every third, fourth person gets sick. Despite that, we still think in the way: “it happens to someone else”, “the disease will not happen to me”, “unlike others, I don’t do / don’t eat …”, “I can do whatever I want”. Our perception is one thing, but reality is another, and eventually one day we have to face it once. Whether reality brings with it positive or negative news, we believe, depends largely on us as well. So let’s look further “of our village” and become aware of our actions towards nature, because, everything we do to it, it slowly returns to us. It returned to us in 2016, when research showed the presence of glyphosate, which we spray on plants, in the urine of 40% of the Croatian population. Considering the number of inhabitants, the inhabitants of Croatia had the highest concentration of glyphosate in their bodies of all EU member states.
The “green” political parties have therefore risen in Croatia and are demanding steps from the government, following the example of Austria. Defying the rules of the European market, Austria is today the country with the largest share of organic agricultural holdings in the European Union – approximately 23 per cent, while the EU average, according to Eurostat data from 2017, is seven per cent. According to the latest data, the share of organic agricultural holdings in the total utilized agricultural area in Croatia was 6.94%.
Bayer/Monsanto said in a statement that “glyphosate is safe for humans, animals and the environment,”. The European Union said it is NOT, and VeeMee says “let’s move towards reducing pesticide use and turn to organic production because WE want to know WHAT we eat.
However, the biggest concern about the ban on glyphosate is the fact that it will harm the competitiveness of our farmers since there is no single substitute for now, as pointed out by the Minister of Agriculture, Marija Vučković.
The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture told Euractiv.hr that Croatia can go in the direction of Austria, but before banning the use of glyphosate, it is necessary to find another form of weed control. A good scientific analysis and support instrument needs to be done to prepare farmers for the transition period and to educate small businesses about the new situation, which also comes at a high cost, especially in the times of crisis ahead.
Europe, therefore, calls for a ban on the extension of the use of glyphosate after 2022, and in the case of the ban at the EU level, Croatia will have to consider it too.
Farmers are standing between two fires = environmental requirements and the pharmaceutical industry. Demand for organic products is growing, but glyphosate is banned on such crops. Will pharmaceutical giants, civic initiatives, scientists or political will win this time because of that, but also because of the expensive transition to organic farming? – We do not know. What we know, see and read from all this is the importance of the transition to organic farming, but also how the effort invested in this type of breeding has valued a hundredfold. That is why we support and help our family farmers because by helping them, we also help ourselves.
And finally, until education and policies to support farmers for the transition to organic production are adopted at the level of the European Union, including Croatia, keep in mind that when visiting a supermarket you should bring a mobile phone (we all already know why J) to make sure that the corn we put in the basket does not originate from Spain – the largest producer of GMO corn.
Until the next reading,
Your VeeMee Advisor!