The Devil and Holy Water

08 Aug 2007

The threat posed by GM crops to traditional, quality agriculture has by no means disappeared. It is the focus of the clash between those striving for a natural—and modern—approach to agriculture (which evolves by drawing on the heritage of traditional knowledge, achieving a balanced relationship between environment and primary production) and those who are still tied to last century’s economic and scientific models (and consider agriculture as a target for chemicals, to be driven by the rules of industry and the market).
The latest episode in the saga took place in mid-June when the meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers approved legislation fixing the threshold for accidental contamination of GMOs in organic food at 0.9%. Allowing GMOs in organic food is a complete contradiction in terms: like the devil and holy water, yet contamination is inevitable and so it is necessary to define to what extent we can tolerate it.
The European Parliament had clearly expressed itself in favor of zero tolerance (611 votes for, 61 against and 23 abstentions), but equally significantly it proposed that this discussion should lead on to another even more important issue: shouldn’t we begin thinking about the agriculture of tomorrow? We know that the food system is among the most significant causes of ecological degradation: can we in Old Europe lead our brothers and sisters of global North and South in trying to save our Mother Earth?
We were proud to read the results of the European Parliament vote; we felt citizens of a united Europe that was ready to accept the inevitable challenges of the momentous changes facing our economies and lifestyles; we sensed a political will to address this new revolution in a positive spirit.
Unfortunately this spirit does not extend to the European leaders who cast their votes in June. Their attitude seems to suggest a risk of returning to a medieval world where only their privileges are worth keeping; though we hope that the practical consequences can be tempered by more restrictive national legislation.
Like so many other people and organizations, Slow Food still believes in the possibility of a new and better world. Ecologically sensitive forms of agriculture and sustainable approaches to food production are key elements in this future.
First printed in La Stampa on June 17, 2007

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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