Non-GMO potatoes. Photo: Kristianstads kommun/Charlotte Sandberg
As I wrote here last summer there has been quite a heated discussion around the growing of genetically modified (GMO) potatoes in Vajakkala in the North of the country.
The potato variety Amflora has been test-grown there, and environmental activist have made various actions against the plantation, arguing that there haven’t been sufficient studies done on what kinds of health and environment risks genetic modification could have.
Now the corporation BASF, which owns the company running the tests in Vajakkala, has decided that they will stop all commercial cultivation of GMO crops in Europe (article in Swedish). Sweden being one of the first European countries to allow large-scale planting of this potato, this means the end for Amflora.
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- Greenpeace activists picking genetically modified potatoes at the plantation in North of Sweden. Photo: Greenpeace.
Genetically modified crops, GMO, hasn’t been as debated in Sweden as in many other countries, but lately the issue has taken a jump up on the political agenda thanks to a hot potato.
In Vajakkala [map] in the North of Sweden, Plant Science Sweden (owned by international chemical company BASF), has started test cultivations of the genetically modified potato Amflora, which contains a gene that is altered to resist antibiotics.
This has worried locals and activist from the environmental organization Greenpeace are blocking the potato warehouse to prevent the planting of new potatoes. Amflora will be used as starch in the industry, but producers are hoping to be allowed to sell this type of potato to consumers in about four years time.
The environmental activists argue that there haven’t been sufficient studies done on what kinds of health and environment risks genetic modification could have. There is also fear of large companies getting too much power over food production by being in control of and selling these plant varieties. Patrik Eriksson from Greenpeace says that when there are uncertainties with agriculture and food, the principle of caution is usually followed in the EU, but when it comes to GMO it hasn’t been the case.
But everyone’s not as sceptical to GMO. This week a report commissioned by the Swedish government stated that growing genetially modified crops would give large economic benefits. The authors argue that in a world with less fresh water, a growing population and a changing climate we might not be able to produce enough food if we don’t use these technologies.
The protesters in Nedre Vojakkala were removed by police, but one week ago they went back to blocking the potato planting.
The debate will surely continue.