Acceptance of genetically modified food in Spain reached
such an extent that growers in Catalonia planted a higher proportion of their corn
crop with biotech seed than peers in the US.
Spanish growers raised sowings of genetically modified corn
by 19.5% this year to a record 116,000 hectares, analysis of Spanish farm
ministry data shows.
The sowings, with Monsanto's MON 810 variety, the only
biotech seed commercially grown in the European Union, accounted for some 30%
of the Spanish corn crop.
And it was particularly popular in Catalonia, where it
accounted for 90% of seedings – a higher rate than the 88% of US corn planted
with genetically modified varieties, according to the US Department of
Indeed, Catalan growers planted a greater proportion of their
crop with genetically modified seed than farmers in US Corn Belt states
including Illinois and Indiana, key markets for biotechnology giants such as
DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.
The turn to GM seed reflects its modification for insect resistance.
While MON 810 corn is a relatively old product, superseded in
many jurisdictions outside Europe less sceptical over GM crops, it
offers protection against larvae of the corn borer moth which can inflict heavy
damage on crops planted with orthodox seed varieties.
Indeed, the area sown with MON 810 in Portugal expanded by
20% to 9,278 hectares, equivalent to 6.6% of the country's overall corn
plantings, thanks to fears over expansion into an area where the larvae have
taken a heavy toll in the past.
"According to local
sources, [the increase] reflects in part a precautionary approach by farmers planting
corn for the first time in zones covered by the new Alqueva irrigation network,
in the Alentejo region, where the corn stalk borer is endemic," the USDA's
Madrid bureau said in a report.
However, the enthusiasm for biotech crops in the Iberian
Peninsula contrasts with the antagonism to GM seed elsewhere in the EU, where
overall sowings with genetically engineered corn total less than 10,000
In France - once a leading proponent of GM corn, with
sowings of more than 22,000 hectares in 2007 - farmers have planted none since,
thanks to government restrictions imposed four years ago, and enforced since,
even in the face of an unfavourable judgement at the European Court of Justice.
The curbs have hampered imports of genetically modified
crops too, limiting the origins from which the EU can import grains and
oilseeds to meet demand from livestock farmers, although a change last year
improved access by allowing trace levels of unapproved biotech feed crops.
The European Commission may be on the verge of approving
authorising MIR162, a Syngenta genetically modified corn variety, for use in
feed and food in the EU, as well as for import and processing, according to
A committee on September 27 failed to come up with
conclusive vote on the variety, whose approval is seen as improving in
particular the access of South American exports to Europe.