Poland has become the latest European country to ban GMOs. Joining Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Latvia, Scotland, Lithuania, Wales, Austria, France, Ireland, and Greece, Poland has said no to genetically modified crops.
For decades European countries have protested against genetically modified organisms, fearing these crops will contaminate the natural crops grown within their borders. This is victory for Polish farmers, who took to their tractors, shutting down motorways in protest of what they viewed as foreign industry’s negative influence over the Polish farming industry. This move by Poland is an attempt to address these concerns, and also to protect the health of their people and to maintain the environment.
Genetically modified foods, or GMOs, refer to crop plants grown in labs for human and animal consumption. These crops have been artificially altered in an attempt to enhance preferred traits such as longer shelf life, resistance to insects, improved appearance or nutritional content. While cross-breeding plants to create improve crops have been done for thousands of years, lab altered crops may contain genes from other species of plants to create “biotech traits” such as resistance to viruses. This human alteration has led to ethnical dilemmas and conflict for many groups. Lack of transparent labeling on GMO foods has already created controversy, as people may be unaware of the modified aspects of the food they consume, and therefore are unable to make an informed decision.
Genetic modification of plants started in the 1970s with the belief that plants could be improved by transferring particular genes from one organism to another, a cut and paste. Concern over the safety of these procedures began immediately, with scientists expressing concerns on the effects on human health and the Earth’s environment. Studies since then have shown a negative effect on both human populations and the environment, such as Monsanto’s costly cotton crops which has led to financial devastation and suicides in India, to studies done by the United Kingdom which show genetically modified crops and the waste they produce has had a devastating effect on local wildlife and aquatic ecosystems.
The demand for the removal of genetically modified crops has been increasing over the last decade, as environmental crisis has led people to seek environmentally sustainable initiatives. Countries in the European Union that had previously banned or greatly limited growing genetically modified plants within their borders have also found a marked decrease in foods grown from GMO sold in their stores. Farmers and suppliers, seeing there is no profit for these items, do not grow nor sell them.
With this ban, Poland has made a strong stand against Monsanto and GMO. While the Polish government remains willing to import GM food under strict conditions, they remain firm on their goal to be a country free from GMOs. Time will tell if this policy will inspire others to take a similar stance, as their people demand to be free from the ethical, environmental, financial and political concerns raised by allowing genetically modified crops within their borders.