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What is with GM crop in EU?

Publish date: 2013-02-21

Subject of GM crops cultivation is one of the hottest nowadays and has probably as many pro- and anti- organizations constantly fighting about it. But what really are GM crops? What is the current situation in EU concerning GM crop cultivation and what are myths about it?

Tags: biotechnology , europe

What people are really against

Firstly, we have to define what is the most common definition of GMOs:

“GMO - (an abbreviation for genetically modified organism), an organism whose genetic material has been modified, especially by genetic engineering.”

or in simple words :

“GMOs are organisms with artificially altered genes to change their characteristics in some way”.

One have to, however, distinguish between GMO technology covering the whole sector of modified organisms (also used for biological and medical research, production of pharmaceutical drugs and experimental medicine, which is globally-accepted) and GM crops – plants with genes change so that they resist pests and agents causing harm, improve growth efficiency or add beneficial agents like higher content of vitamin A precursor. And those manipulations are believed to have negative impact on human health in longer period of time.

Ideas and treads

The ideas behind GM crops development are noble. As the global food challenge increases, crops are to cover higher expectation concerning nutritional value, the efficiency of harvest from limited area and resistance to various factors like weather changes or pests.

However, due to common fear of words : “changes” and “manipulation” hyped by anti-GMO organizations people lack understanding of basis of GM crops and now are resilient to get familiar with them.

Current situation in Europe

EU has the most strict regulation concerning GMO in the world. The acceptation process involved long, time consuming evaluation by EFSA (European Food Safety Authorization)  and can be refused authorization at each step. Due to so strict regulation only 48 GMOs has been approved so far from which majority is a feed additive. Moreover,  a number of Member States have submitted  a so-called “safeguard clause” allowing them to  restrict or prohibit the use and sale of the GM products on their territory.

Fig.1 Potato Amflora developed by BASF

So far only two GM crops were approved for cultivation in EU :

-          a Bt expressing maize type MON810 conferring resistance to pests such as the European Corn Borer,

-          and potato type Amflora known for its waxy starch content useful in e.g. paper making industry.


Seven more GM crops (six maize varieties and one soybean) are currently awaiting  for cultivation approval from the EU Commission.

Fig.2 World cultivation of GM crops


EU compared to the rest of the world

Compared to USA (more than 90 GM varieties approved for cultivation), South America (20 cultivation approved just in Brazil)  or Asia, Europe is far behind them and the situation is unlike to change soon. However, recent statement of Barack Obama for comprehensive trade between USA and EU raise voices to lift GMO ban for cultivation in EU.


The fight between scientists and anti-GMO organisation for GM crops will continue as it is fuelled by both major enterprises and heated public discussion. For the world there is nothing left, but to hope that the compromise will be reached as sites will try to get out of the box.

by Jacek Plewka




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