Science in Society Archive

Europe's Uprising Against GMOs and Patents on Life

The unstoppable groundswell of opposition to GMOs in Europe Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

The recent call for a moratorium on GMOs in Europe [1] (see Europe Holds the Key to a GM-Free World, 5th Conference of GM-Free Regions, Food & Democracy, SiS 43) reflects an unstoppable groundswell of opposition to GMOs from both European citizens and governments.

An online poll [2] on the question: “Should GMOs be banned in Europe?” conducted in April 2009 returned a 79 percent yes, 18 percent no and 3 percent don’t know. Days earlier, Germany outlawed the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM maize MON810, a surprising move that delighted campaigners. Germany became the sixth EU country to introduce a provisional ban on the GM maize, after France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece [3]. A source close to the EC said the German ban might bring a revision of the European legislation on GM crops. Germany also voted with the majority in March when the European Commission (EC) attempted to force Austria and Hungary to reverse their bans, and its ruling was overturned by a big majority [1].

Ban by Germany the tipping point

Germany’s move was broadly welcomed by its news media [4]. German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810, posed “a danger to the environment,” a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans. The left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau wrote: “Genetically modified corn is a risk to our environment, is totally superfluous in farming, represents industrial agriculture, causes pointless costs to food production in Germany and can even ruin beekeepers.” The left-wing Berliner Zeitung wroes: “The new studies don't show any new risks - they simply prove that the old warning about the risks was justified. It's a scandal that the subsequent ban was even necessary because the farming of genetically modified plants had been permitted without a thorough examination of all the possible dangers.”

Germany, the most populous country in the European Union (EU) ranking fourth in land area, is also its most influential and economically powerful member nation. Monsanto applied for an emergency ruling to overturn the ban to allow for its 2009 planting [5], saying its ban is arbitrary and goes against EU regulations.

But the court in Braunschweig in north Germany rejected Monsanto’s application [6]. Significantly, a statement from the court said Germany’s law on GMOs does not require that a ban on a new plant variety is justified by proven scientific research which showed without doubt the crop to be dangerous; it was sufficient when research showed there were indications that the crop could be dangerous.

Opposition strengthened by the eastern bloc

As countries from the former eastern bloc joined the European Union (EU), the US had expected them to help counter the opposition to GMOs, but far from it. The newer members have added strength to the GM opposition, often in direct defiance of Brussels.

In April the European Commission sent a letter to Bulgaria warning over its failure to implement the European Directive for GMO in its legislation, as reported in the Klasa Daily [7]. This was the sixth official warning to Bulgaria for not following regulations. Experts commented that the current Bulgarian legislation is much more restrictive compared to European regulation. Bulgaria supported Hungary’s decision to keep the ban.

No patents on animals and plants

Meanwhile, more than a thousand farmers demonstrated against patents on animals and plants at the European Patent Office in Munich 15 April 2009 [8]. Over 5 000 people and some 50 organisations have filed a joint opposition to a patent on breeding pigs originally registered by the US corporation Monsanto. Protestors want all patents on life to be prohibited by law.

Rudolf Buehler from the Schwaebisch Hall farmers’ Association led a herd of its traditional breeding pigs to the patent office. He said: “Corporations like Monsanto want control over agriculture and food, from piglets to cutlets.”

The demonstration was also supported by the German dairy farmers alliance, the BDM, and the AbL farmers' cooperative. “There are new patent applications that range from cows to milk and yoghurt,” said Romuald Schaber at the BDM. “The German government must set limits to big companies' greed for living creatures.”

The demonstrators in Munich have already scored an initial success. The Hesse state government and the Greens in the German Bundestag last month called for a change in European patent laws prohibiting such patents being granted in future.

Article first published 25/05/09


  1. Ho MW. Europe holds the key to a GM-free world; 5th Conference of GM-free regions, food and democracy. Science in Society 43.
  2. Euro News online poll on GM food and farming 17 April 2009,
  3. “EU to ‘reflect’ on Germany's GM maize ban”, EU Business, 15 April 2009,
  4. “The world from Berlin: ‘There was no reason to accept the risks of GM corn’” Spiegel Online 15 April 2009,
  5. “Monsanto sues Germany over GM corn ban”, DW-World.DE, 22 April 2009,,,4196705,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf
  6. “German court rejects Monsanto plea to end GMO maize ban”
    Reuters, May 5 2009
  7. “Brussels makes a sixth warning over environment”
    FOCUS News Agency, 11 May 2009
  8. “Farmers demonstrate in Munich against patents on animals and plants”,
    No Patents on Seeds, 15 April 2009

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There are 21 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

foodchoices Comment left 3rd June 2009 17:05:17
Thank you for this article. It is surprising that Bill Gates is supporting GM research when the rest of the world is trying to stem the onslaught? Is there some way of getting through to him on the dangers of GMO's? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with IRRI,Manila has sought permission to conduct research on GM Rice in Kerala State,India, which has declared itself to be a GM Free State. Please help take a stand against this.

TallCotton Comment left 1st June 2009 17:05:35
There is a growing concern GMOs are causing yet-unknown allergic reaction such as morgellons, its not unreasonable

Anthony Comment left 4th October 2009 19:07:29
To help explain why GMO is being pushed on populations simply do a little research Start with Eugenics, then move on over to CFR, Trilateral Commission, then drop on down to see where all the money comes from, what SUPPOSED humanitary funds are created to combatproblems and youll see the same names, the same companies, the same amount of death. Codex Alimentarius is being pushed by the same people who want to feed GMO to the uneducated, U.S. included, ergo EUGENICS.

Dean Comment left 26th May 2009 02:02:01
It's about time the world starts showing more real signs of consciousness! Congratulations Europe!

Gudrun Kristin Magnusdottir Comment left 26th May 2009 02:02:38
i sincerely welcome your endevour; Iceland is considering GMO/GE (barley+human protein) to be allowed!!! and i am opposing with all possible means -- wake up, men!! GMO-accidents are irreversible, dangerous, stupid......

Sharon Medway Comment left 26th May 2009 15:03:38
Thank God the EU is standing up to the plate. It makes me embarrassed, as an American, that our government has ignored and even facilitated this devastating precedent for patents on life and wholesale use of GMO foods. We do not have a choice here in the US and must guess which foods are "less likely to contain" these GMO products. We are getting sicker and sicker each year and no one in the medical community knows why. I want to know if Monsanto can be brought up on charges of "Crimes Against Humanity" under any sort of International Law.

Norman Comment left 26th May 2009 15:03:58
ban all gmos until adequate testing has been done

Mary Comment left 26th May 2009 15:03:05
It is wonderful to see that people are now thinking and not just believing alot of hype. Life does not belong to corporations and as Dr Maewan Ho has repeatedly demonstrated, the whole GM concept is ludicrous. Genes cannot be moved at will. Nature is in control and must remain so. Organic farming is the only way and farmers must be free to keep their seeds from their own crops and to retain total ownership of all life forms. Congratulations to Europe for having the intestinal fortitude to make this ban.

andré Comment left 26th May 2009 19:07:03
let us work together with nature.. no manipulation, on whatsoever... give our children a good place to be themselves!!! it's a shame that gmo's ever excisted and can excist...

annie avery Comment left 26th May 2009 20:08:08
it's important to have this information; vital. i attempt to spread this everywhere i can. it would be great to see ISIS on facebook! i've emailed for permission to send links to these articles on my wall. please consider joining my group on wiserearth, as well: keep up the good work isis, thanks!!

Pete Comment left 27th May 2009 03:03:11
I would appeal for people to make their council enforce EU regulation 1829/2003 providing information on labels about the use of GM ingredients,cooking oils etc in takeaways cafes etc.I also believe the ethical considerations for labelling GMOs are as valid as those for vegetarianism or other .

amicus curiae Comment left 27th May 2009 03:03:21
brilliant news indeed:-) I was feeling down after the Victoria Aust govt announced a stupid deal spending 230 mill$AU taxpayers funds to set DOW up for "research" and furthering GM Wheat and omega9?? canola(should be spelt CONola)Tasmania however has Moratorium till 2014 so they will benefit immensely, in green sales.Good on them! WA is also under Monsanto sway sadly, even after Vic GM Canola was a dud, last year, still they fall for the lies..and WE the citizens bear the long term problems!

Tessie Comment left 5th June 2009 03:03:57
United Nations on Biotechnology - Codex (Food Regulations: "FAO and WHO have provided expert scientific advice on the food safety aspects of foods derived from biotechnology since 1991. While not officially part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission structure, the FAO/WHO Expert Consultations in this area provide independent scientific expert advice to the Commission and its specialist Committees and Task Forces. FAO and WHO maintain separate websites highlighting this work from the points of view of the two parent Organizations." Food for thought!

Tessie Comment left 5th June 2009 14:02:08
World Health Organisation and Biotechnology extract from web site: "The ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology was re-established by the 27th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (2004). The Task Force will complete its work within four years and submit a report in 2009. The objectives of the Task Force are to develop standards, guidelines or recommendations, as appropriate, for foods derived from modern biotechnology or traits introduced into foods by modern biotechnology, on the basis of scientific evidence, risk analysis and having regard, where appropriate, to other legitimate factors relevant to the health of consumers and the promotion of fair practices in the food trade." I wonder what the Report will say?

Maewan Ho Comment left 5th June 2009 14:02:46
Tessie, I am told this report is already available on Codex website.

Geneo McDuddley Comment left 2nd August 2009 19:07:21
The EU is too smart, so they took the GMO food circus to mexico. Sad, poor mexican farmers.

Tessie Comment left 1st July 2009 01:01:01
Codex work on foods derived from biotechnology: Apparently the report due to be submitted in 2009 was finished in 2007. The work by the ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology can be found at the following link:

tony villar Comment left 1st July 2009 01:01:52
monsanto is a very dangerous and evil global company.

Lisa Morley Comment left 28th August 2009 19:07:00
Hi, I am reading as much as I can about the aims of codex alimentarius. I want to know what the current stage of the bill they are trying to pass is, relevant to Europe and the UK. Also any information on the GMO corn and the UK and monsanto's aim to patent seeds and life. Thankyou for your help. Kind regards Lisa Morley

Arthur Cotton Comment left 18th August 2009 00:12:41
Aspartame, DDT, Agent Orange, Sachrine, Round-Up, Smartstacks, Cry9c. GMO fast food. Is it worth the risk?

Gene Rubin Comment left 18th August 2009 00:12:36
The entire Codex thing is creepy. Why were food and population rules made during Nixon and Johnson 40 yrs ago, with a 12/31/2009 deadline. WTF. Revolution? Think? All those people are dead. So, What? Come and get me.