Romania: GM Maize 1507’s Future Breeding Ground?

If the EU isn’t careful, Romania may become one of the primary breeding grounds for GMOs. Of course, that includes GM Maize 1507 (also known as Pioneer 1507). The recent developments regarding the potential cultivation of this particular corn variety are deeply concerning.

On February 11th, 19 out of 28 EU member states made their opposition to Pioneer 1507 known in a public debate. And actually, only 5 agreed on its cultivation. Solid Eastern European opposition exists with Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania against approval of the GM crop. Not one country in the region voted in favor or abstained. Even the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted against the cultivation of this crop in January. No one can deny that staunch opposition exists.

The Romanian vote against the authorization of Pioneer 1507 is positive news but there may be more to it than that. This most likely happened due to the Romanian Presidential and European Parliamentary elections that will occur later this year. One should not be fooled to believe that this opposition vote was anything but a political calculation. Many officials in the Romanian government openly and consistently support large scale, intensive industrial farming and the cultivation of GMO’s. However, they are very aware that its citizens, along with EU citizens from other countries, strongly oppose GM crops. A negative vote in the short term may help elect some people that will promote GMO use in the long term.

The EU Commission, an appointed body, should not be able to make the sole decision to approve Pioneer 1507 with such obvious public opposition coming from a record number of its own member states and citizens. Yet that is exactly the case in this situation – this large majority of votes is somehow not enough. The EU Parliament’s weighted voting rules simply defy logic in this case.

Roger Waite, the EU Commission’s Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development recently mentioned, “The Commission shall adopt the proposal to approve the GMO. The rules are clear – there is no choice.” And “There is no possibility for the Commission to withdraw the proposal because the discussion within Council is already considered that it is acting, whether or not there was a vote.” He goes on to mention that EFSA opinions and other consultations need to be taken into account but he makes it sound like approval of Pioneer 1507 is a foregone conclusion.

Every year, GMO field trials occur in Romania and it is one of five EU member states that cultivate the only GM crop in the bloc, MON810 maize. According to the Romanian GMO Info Center (InfOMG), there were 12 GM crop varieties listed in the 2012 national seed catalog.

This means that 11 varieties were being tested and 1 was actually being cultivated. Some of these tests are being used in order to boost the scientific arguments in favor of GM cultivation in the EU right in front of our faces. InfOMG also reports that there are 94 foreign seed companies currently operating in the country and there are seed factories and facilities owned by Monsanto, KWS, Syngenta, Dow, Dekalb, Pioneer and others located here.

These agricultural corporations may just be trying to compete better in the hybrid seed market but it’s also possible that they are building up capacity for the day when many GM crops could be legally cultivated and sold here in the EU. This is why the TTIP is of grave concern. We don’t want Romania to act as a Trojan horse and allow GMO cultivation to infiltrate the rest of Europe. Already having the infrastructure to move quickly and control the market could be in these corporations’ plans for Pioneer 1507 and other GM crops.

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