US pressure on GM-critics?
Madrid – Nowhere in the world, is the concentration of GM-sceptics higher than it is in Europe, but their reign is not supreme. On the south-western tip of the continent, Spain stands out for its “science-based agricultural biotechnology position”. That’s not really news. What makes the evaluation noteworthy though, is that it is comes from a US diplomatic cable published by the website Wikileaks. In recent weeks, several such cables have emerged revealing that under the Bush administration, American diplomats were not shy about using all their influence to fight against a further tightening of GM laws in Europe. Relations between the US administration and commercial GM crop producers appear to have been cordial. The British daily the Guardian cited a cable that: “In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto,” the American embassy in Madrid was urging “renewed US government support of Spain’s science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention.” Other cables suggest that Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to further tighten biotechnology laws. In another message cited by the Guardian, the US Ambassador to France recommended the US “calibrate a target list that causes some pain across the EU” because both government and citizens were for the most part opposed to GM crops.
Spanish maize farmers, however, don’t seem much impressed by the Wikileaks revelations. According to a recent survey commissioned by the GMO-friendly Antama Foundation, most of them don’t use transgensic seeds because they don’t have problems with the European corn borer. Most are indifferent (61%) or in favour (18%) of planting GM maize. A large majority (93%) of the farmers who planted Bt-maize in 2010 said they will do so again this year. The study involved 200 farmers in Catalonia and Aragon. One fifth of Spain’s 400,000 hectares of maize acreage are currently planted with GM maize.