As US Politicians Take Up Climate, Europe Champions Chironomidae


The thing about "GM" corn, as it is popularly known, is that as a result of the genetic modifications, entire corn plants are shot through with Bt toxin, concentrations of which vary depending on whether it is fruit, leaf, stem, pollen, root, etc. When parts of the Bt-laced plant plant decay on the land, bits and pieces end up in soil and then on into streams, where there is potential to impact aquatic organisms of the same or similar genera of the target pests for which the Bt toxins were intended. More than just the butterflies of August are of concern, in other words. The Chironomidae is an example of an large aquatic insect family known to be vulnerable to Bt.

European officials seem now to be reacting to this potentiality in the emotional environment created by a decade's worth of US intransigences on global environmental issues. Facing the continuing resistance of US government to the European notion of "precautionary principle" - which encompasses how the risk of climate change and other environmental issues are managed - it appears the Europeans are readying to take a direct poke at an easier target: US-based bio-tech corporations. This development furthers the continental divide over environmental governance principles. GM corn is a metaphor for the philosophical divide between Europe and the US.

European Union environment officials have determined that two kinds of genetically modified corn could harm butterflies, modify food chains and disturb life in rivers and streams, and they have proposed a ban on the sale of the seeds, which are made by DuPont Pioneer, Dow Agrosciences and Syngenta.

The preliminary decisions, seen by the International Herald Tribune, are circulating within the European Commission, the EU executive, which has the final say. Some officials there are skeptical about a ban that would upset the powerful biotechnology industry and could exacerbate tensions with important EU trading partners like the United States.

A decision by the EU to disallow cultivation of the genetically modified crops would be the first of its kind in the trade bloc, making the current battle over genetically modified corn ferocious.

Banning the applications for corn crops also would mark a bold new step for EU environmental authorities, who already are aggressively pursuing regulations on emissions from cars and aircraft that have set it at odds with the United States and angered industries.

In the decisions, Dimas cited research from 2007 showing that consumption of genetically modified "corn byproducts reduced growth and increased mortality of non-target stream insects" and that these insects "are important prey for aquatic and riparian predators" and that this could have "unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences."

The great irony of this prospective step by the EU is that one of its industry targets, a Dupont subsidiary,has been quite proactive on climate issues, cultivating a "precautionary" position of its own for years.

Via::International Herald Tribune, "EU officials propose ban on genetically modified corn seeds" Image credit::Wikipedia, Chironomus plumosis, source:

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