This South American GMO soy that France cannot do without

While the cultivation of GMOs is prohibited in France, Europe imports millions of tons of transgenic soy every year, mainly from Brazil and Argentina, to feed its farms, denounces a Greenpeace report.

Do the French unknowingly consume food products composed of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? This is what the new report of the militant association affirms, which denounces “the double weight and two measures” of the European policy as regards GMO. While the diet of most European citizens is protected from any genetically modified substance, that of livestock remains an important outlet for certain products derived from transgenic seeds, such as soya. According to data from Greenpeace, “more than 95% of the soy produced” by the two main suppliers to the European market, Brazil (37%) and Argentina (29%) is genetically modified. Of all European imports, three quarters are intended for industrial breeding of broilers and laying hens (50%), and pigs (24%). Dairy cows consume 16% of imported soybeans and suckler cows (meat breeds) 7%.

Since 2001, the issuance of import and marketing authorizations for genetically modified seeds, detailed in the , falls within the competence of the European Union. About a hundred GMOs are listed there as fit for human consumption. However, derogations allow European countries that so wish to exclude themselves from the GMO market. Comforted by “serious doubts” as to the economic, health and ecological consequences of such consumption, the majority of European countries, including France since 2008, have banned the cultivation of GMOs for commercial purposes. Only Spain and Portugal have authorized it. Thus, transgenic rapeseed and Monsanto maize (MON 810) are not among the food products available in French supermarkets. Through livestock feed, the French therefore indirectly consume products (meat, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.) made up of GMOs. How to explain this paradox, when the country prohibits the cultivation of GMOs on its soil?

French farms ultra-dependent on South American soybeans

Philippe Chalmin, specialist in the raw materials market, explains that the importation of GMOs into Europe is explained by our food dependence. A central element of animal feed in Europe, imported soya is essential to the survival of our agricultural model. The availability of French agricultural land does not make it possible to replace GMO soy. According to Greenpeace, to produce the 3.5 million tonnes of soybeans imported each year into France, an additional 11,980 km2 of exploitable land would be needed, i.e. almost all the agricultural land of Morbihan, Côtes d’Armor and Finistère combined.

However, the harmfulness of GMO soy remains to be proven, nuance Philippe Chalmin, who recalls that to date the scientific work carried out on the question has not made it possible to highlight any danger for human health. As proof, the health disputes brought before the High Council for Biotechnology (HCB) are non-existent. In this context, banning GMO soy in Europe is currently economically “impossible”.

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