BASF quit. The German chemicals and biotech giant, who had been fighting hard for 13 years to get approval for Amflora, its genetically modified starched-up potato for industrial use, is giving up on the European market for GMO (genetically modified organisms). The reason? “A lack of acceptance from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” said Stefan Marcinowski, a BASF board member. “Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.” BASF is moving its plant science headquarters from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Raleigh, North Carolina.
The decision occurred 18 months after an attempt by the European Commission to put an end to a 12-year moratorium on GM crops by allowing individual countries to decide whether or not to grow GM crops. Seemingly, that initiative is not going anywhere, and BASF decided to finally cut its losses, and move to greener pastures. The company said that it has decided to focus on “attractive markets”… in the Americas and in Asia.
Kudos to consumers, farmers, even elected officials for getting their voices heard. The European anti-GMO movement has been very vocal for a very long time, and their victory is inspiring. In fact, it feels like nothing short of a sweet vindication after the disclosure one year ago, thanks to WikiLeaks, of the involvement of the American government into strong-arming the European Union to open its market to GMO–more precisely, to genetically modified (GM) seeds developed by the American company Monsanto.
Only one other GM crop, a breed of maize (corn) developed by Monsanto that produces the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insect toxin, is currently approved for cultivation in Europe. Meanwhile, the 1998 moratorium on GM crops is on.
Now that BASF has given up on the European GMO market, it will be interesting to see what new twist Monsanto pulls out of its hat. The biotech giant is not short of allies in the scientific and media circles. Beware of (misleading) messages deploring the “backward” mentality of these anti-GM ignorant crowds, who fight the best that science has to offer to overcome hunger and environmental degradation, and flaunting Monsanto’s commitment to “sustainable agriculture.” Now, you wouldn’t want to “support” hunger, now, would you?
More seriously, here’s to hoping that this turn of event energizes American consumers who are demanding, at the very least, that GMO food be labeled.