When the year comes to a close it’s often a time for balances, and even if progress is slow it’s good to stop for a moment to take stock.
Take genetically engineered (GE) crops (also referred to as GMOs), for example. In Europe, 2014 has not been an easy year for the GMO industry.
Less arable land, less countries, less variety
The amount of land used for GMOs in Europe declined further during 2014. Today slightly less than 0.1% of European agricultural land is used to produce GE crops.
Seventeen years since the first authorisation for cultivation in Europe the number of countries allowing cultivation of GE crops went down to only five.
Variety-wise, since the European Court annulled the approval of BASF’s GE potato, the only crop allowed in Europe is Monsanto Bt corn, or MON810, modified to produce its own pesticide.
In Spain – where 92% of European GE crops are grown – the land area devoted to their cultivation is around 70.000 hectares, which is roughly 0.6 % of Spain’s agricultural land.
This represents only a tiny group of farmers. It is a far cry from the flamboyant gestures the industry was making a few years ago when they predicted the rapid spread of GE crops.
GE crops is good business in Europe
But the really serious issue here is that GE crops are a threat to the environment and to people. GE crops are part of an industrial agriculture system that reduces diversity, making crops more vulnerable than ever, especially to the challenge of climate change, and therefore affecting our food security.
GE crops are not what we need
What we need to do is move towards options that are able to combine variety and resilience in order to produce healthy food while at the same time respecting the planet and its resources.
That demands ecological farming, because fostering biodiversity is essential to achieve food security.
The future of agriculture is ecological farming
The more that scientists study and compare the results of agroecological practices against industrial farming the more it’s clear that ecological farming is already able to stand up to the competition.
Imagine what ecological farming could deliver if the funds currently going into chemical inputs or into inconclusive GMO research could be shifted into supporting farmers, such as through training and infrastructure.
I’m convinced this will happen. Soon ecological farming will be the predominant kind of farming in Europe and hopefully also in the rest of the world. A world without GMOs and without the synthetic chemical inputs that are neither good for our health nor for the environment, and that represent a very high risk for beneficial species such as bees.
I’d love to see these kind of changes to our food system advance by leaps and bounds but I’m happy to be patient because I know that to consolidate significant change sometimes you need to move one step at a time.
“…You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one…”
Let’s make it happen!
Luís Ferreirim is Ecological Farming campaigner with Greenpeace Spain.
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