One week after a global day of protest brought out thousands of citizens that rallied against the biotech company Monsanto, its spokespeople have confirmed reports that it is planning to roll back its operations in Europe due to the low demand of farmers and the continuous public opposition.
In the TAZ, a German daily, Brandon Mitchener, the spokesperson for Monsanto’s European branch, was quoted as saying that “We are no longer working on lobbying for more cultivation in Europe.” Monsanto’s German spokeswoman Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane confirmed on Sunday that the company would not apply for the approval of new genetically modified seeds in Europe, arguing that the region needed more time to embrace the concepts that other countries had more readily adopted. “As long as there’s not enough demand from farmers for these products and the public at large doesn’t accept the technology, it makes no sense to fight against windmills,” she said. However, she also highlighted that the company hadn’t applied for new varieties in the last two or three years. In addition, Mitchener stressed that the company would continue to sell MON810 maize in Spain, Portugal and Romania, where acceptance of the crop is highest, and to lobby for the ability of European livestock producers to import GM-feed from countries where GMOs are widespread, for example South America.
Still, this might herald a change of strategy and a recognition that the European market is simply not profitable enough to continue lobbying for a change of mind or policy. Eight countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland) have already banned Monsanto’s MON810 maize (one of only 2 GMO varieties currently commercially grown in Europe) and other forms of GMO cultivation, while more regions and municipalities in countries as varied as Belgium (entire Wallonia), Finland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK have defined themselves as GMO-free zones. Such zones are especially frequent in Spain, the country where the majority of MON810 maize is grown.
Monsanto’s main competitors, including the producer of the second approved GMO crop, BASF, but also Syngenta and Bayer, have already started to leave the market due to the low demand and the continued concerted opposition by farmers, lawmakers and civil society.