The European Union (EU) Animal Committee voted this week to permit animal feed contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The vote allows 0.1 percent of imports to contain GMO traits. The head of Brussels-based Food & Water Europe and Washington D.C. based Food & Water Watch denounced it.
“This spectacularly shortsighted move comes after years of intense pressure from U.S. biotech lobbyists looking to cut the costs segregating out crops the EU has not yet approved,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe.
“By exaggerating the situation and inflaming concerns among beleaguered EU livestock farmers, the industry has successfully and dishonestly painted a ‘life or death’ scenario for them,” said Hauter. “Every country has the right to plant and eat what they choose without interference from unaccountable multinational agribusinesses,” Hauter added.
It should come as no surprise that the EU Animal Committee approved GMO contaminated animal feed. The Food and Water Watch’s November 2010 report found that the largest 50 agriculture and food patent holding companies and two of the largest biotechnology and agrochemical trade associations spent over $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures since 1999. The report, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, covers the period between January 1, 1999 and June 30, 2010.
At least 13 former members of Congress and over 300 former congressional and White House staffers were hired by lobby firms. Republican candidates received over 60 percent of the contributions. Between 1999 and 2010, the GOP received $13.8 million or 61.7 percent from biotech firms, and between the 2000 and 2006 election cycle, Republican candidates received over 70 percent. During the 2008 election cycle when Democrats controlled Congress, more than half went to Republicans, but during the first 18 months of last year’s cycle, 53.8 percent went to Democratic candidates. Biotech firm employees donated over $200,000 to Obama’s election campaign, 40 percent of what they historically gave to all House, Senate and PACs combined.
Food and agriculture biotechnology PACs gave over $22 million in campaign contributions since 1999, averaging about $2 million a year. Their contributions more than doubled between the 2000 and 2008 election cycle, from $2.4 million in 2000 to $5.3 million in 2008, and are on track to break the record in 2010 with $4.6 million from January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010. If the fourth quarter only keeps the same level of spending, it would be more than $7.5 million.
A total of 42 percent of all donations, over $9 million, went to members of committees that oversee the biotechnology industry, and a “significant share” went to members of Congress on committees with oversight of the biotechnology industry. The contributions made to the committees “could facilitate access to key lawmakers and decision-making legislative staff with responsibility for the oversight of food safety, environmental protection and crop cultivation,” the report stated.
The American people are suspicious of GMO products, as the report pointed out, and cited two polls as evidence. A 2010 Food & Water Watch poll conducted by Lake Research Partners found that 78 percent of Americans believe that the FDA shouldn’t approve genetically engineered salmon. A CBS News/NY Times poll found that 87 percent believed food with GMO ingredients should be labeled.