This week the Council of the European Union signed off a new Directive which could have huge ramifications for the food we eat.
The Directive on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) will come into effect on 2 April. Its stated purpose is to allow Member States to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified organisms on their territory, even if those crops have received EU approval.
But at the same time the new Directive de facto marks the end of a blanket EU ban on the commercial growing of genetically modified crops (GMOs). It will almost certainly lead to the start of commercial growing of GMOs in the UK.
The EU Council decision represents a clumsy compromise, which allows anti-GMO governments like those of France and Hungary to ban GM crops whilst giving the green light to countries with pro-GMO governments, such as the UK. As a result we could soon see biotech companies and agribusinesses starting to grow EU-approved GM crops commercially in the UK, despite the high level of public opposition to GMOs recorded in opinion polls.
The change represents an open invitation for the global chemical giants, particularly Dow, DuPont, Syngenta and Monsanto. Monsanto, the world’s leading GMO producer, is reportedly already pressing ahead with applications to grow GM oilseed rape, maize, sugar beet, potatoes and other crops in the UK.
It is anticipated that maize will be the first of the approved GM crops to be grown commercially in the UK – probably a variety called “Pioneer 1507”, created using sophisticated particle acceleration technology.
Rape is expected to be another early GM crop to appear in the UK, but in the longer term we may well begin to see GM fruit and vegetables appearing for sale in our supermarkets. (Some UK supermarket meat products already contain GMOs, albeit indirectly as a result of a legislative loophole. The meat industry is a big consumer of GMO animal feed, and of the big UK supermarket chains, only Waitrose maintains an outright ban on GMO-fed meat products. In the last two years, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, the Co-Op and Marks and Spencer have all confirmed that they now sell meat products where the animal has been fed with GM feed).
There remains a gaping hole in our knowledge and understanding of the long term effects of GMOs on the environment and on human and animal health. What we do know is that the laws of nature neither recognise nor respect man-made boundaries. Once established here, there will be nothing to prevent the contamination of non-GMO crops with pollen from GMOs. This is what has happened in the USA, where GMOs have been grown commercially since 1996. And, just as has happened in the US, the advent of GMOs in the UK will lead to a massive rise in the use of herbicides, not only causing pollution, environmental damage and potential harmful effects on human and other life, but also inevitably leading to the evolution of a new generation of so-called superweeds, weeds that develop a resistance to conventional herbicides, thus rendering redundant one of the original advantages claimed for many GMO crops.
GMOs do not represent a solution: they are the latest and ugliest symptom of an underlying malaise. By opening the door to the biotech companies and their products, the EU and the UK governments will be taking a reckless gamble with all our futures.
I’m using the last of the crop of Brussels sprouts from my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, for this dish.
As far as I know there have been no attempts to genetically modify the Brussels sprout, and long may that continue. It’s an often maligned vegetable, largely I think as a result of the unimaginative way it is usually cooked and presented.
Rich in iron and other trace elements as well as vitamins C and K, the sprout – like all vegetables – simply doesn’t respond well to being boiled to a pulp and often works best when cooked with respect and accompanied by a few complementary flavours, as demonstrated in this simple but very tasty recipe.
roasted Brussels sprouts and shallots with lemon and smoked sea salt
500 g Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
100 g (3-4) shallots, finely sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
½ tsp smoked sea salt
juice of half a lemon
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3)
2. Place the halved Brussels sprouts and the sliced shallots into a bowl. Pour in the olive and toasted sesame oils and mix well to ensure everything is coated in oil. Tip the contents of the bowl onto a large, shallow baking tray, spreading the sprouts and shallots evenly. Place this tray into the oven for 40 minutes or so, turning after around 20 minutes, until the sprouts are beginning to brown and are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
3. Remove from the oven. Drain briefly on kitchen paper. Sprinkle over the lemon juice followed by the smoked sea salt and then serve. http://circusgardener.com