German Biotech Lobbyism Echoes in Eurasia
by Igor ALEXEEV
Recent decision of German Poultry Association to allow use of genetically modified soy in poultry operation triggered new discussions on biotech food safety and GMO lobbyism. Consumers in the European Union should have the right to choose between organic and GMO food before the World Trade Organization neoliberal rules go into full effect.
German Poultry Association’s decision to cut costs by allowing genetically modified soy use in poultry industry could become a dangerous precedent not only for the national food market, but also for Berlin’s trade partners outside the EU. The Association’s backslide into GMO support is an important decision point, as Germany is one of the EU’s largest poultry meat producers. In 2013, Germany produced about 1.4 million tons of poultry meat (out of total EU production of about 12.5 million tons). Germany is also one of the EU’s largest users of soybeans and soybean meal, importing for all uses (feed, biofuels, etc.) about 6.8 million tons of soybeans and products in 2013. German chicken and turkey farmers annually use about 4.1 million tons of animal feed, of which soy meal is a key protein component.
Poultry companies Wiesenhof and Rothkoetter import soybeans for business use from Latin America (Brazil and Argentina). In order to defend its pro-GMO stance German Poultry Association noted that imports of non-GMO soybeans are no longer reliable since Brazil will reportedly cut supplies by 50 percent in 2014. Why did it happen in the first place?
Executive director of the Brazilian Association of Non-Genetically Modified Grain Producers (ABRANGE) Ricardo Tatesuzi de Sousa says Monsanto and other «frankenfood» producers are abusing their economic power by removing non-GMO soybean seeds from the market. According to ABRANGE statistics, after Monsanto’s attack on organic seeds, Brazil’s non-GMO soybean production has decreased in the past year from 45 % to 40 % due to the seed shortage. German poultry industry is following the trend set by transnational corporations in the developing world. Interestingly, in 2013 Monsanto had to withdraw bids to grow more GMO seed crops in Europe since Germany said ‘no’ to the GMO giant.
Reasons behind the partial lifting of GMO ban were based solely on business calculations. Wiesenhof and Rothkoetter have been lobbying for genetically modified soy use in poultry operation since February, 2014. Now German health safety regulations are waived to support heavily subsidized European farming industry.
The EU agricultural sector is ineffective and extremely costly. Almost 40% of the total EU budget is still spent on the Common Agricultural Policy. In some countries political battles for agricultural subsidies take grotesque forms. For example, in March French farmers were so enraged at Brussels’ policy that they stormed into Paris’ iconic Louvre museum with a herd of sheep, Euronews reported.
Unlike the French «sheep storming», German poultry lobbyists follow Monsanto’s footsteps and prefer discreet corporate diplomacy. While biotech proponents and critics clash in media disputes on German TV, non-organic producers try to maximize profits in a crisis-stricken market. Willing or not, European consumers will be their guinea pigs. Idea to lift GMO ban met a relatively weak anti-GMO backlash by organized German consumers. Only one organization – the German Association of Green Farmers – tried to raise public awareness of untested GMO use in poultry production.
Considering the current state of relations between the West and its BRICS partners, global bio-safety fears are well-grounded and easy to understand. The U.S. under the first Bush administration flooded CIS countries with cheap American chicken of poor quality, known as «Bush legs». Today German civic society couldn’t stop the biotech lobby from «field tests» on EU citizens. It is naïve to think that transnational corporations will not try to use BRICS and the Customs Union food markets as a testing ground for new genetically modified poultry products. The World Trade Organization procedures may be used to sneak through sovereign phytosanitary certification rules.