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Environmentalists Rejoice at Monsanto GM Decision

Date: 12-May-04
Country: UK
Author: Jeremy Lovell

"This is the end of GM. It is the final nail in the coffin. I am sure the companies will come back with more proposals in the future but basically the damage is done," Tony Juniper, director of green lobby group Friends of the Earth said.

"I am sure a combination of exporters, farmers and consumers has finally got the message back to Monsanto that they can't spin this past the people who can see the truth of what is behind these products," he told Reuters.

Monsanto said Monday it had suspended plans to introduce the world's first biotech wheat, bowing to a storm of protest. Other genetically modified crops were mainly fed to livestock, while Monsanto's wheat was aimed directly at the consumer.

Environmentalists and consumer groups across the world have campaigned against the introduction of so-called Frankenstein crops, saying they spelled death to the countryside and were unproven on human health.

Farmers groups, realizing the rising, resistance have tended to sit on the fence, exporters have campaigned quietly in favor and the chemical industry has championed the technology it has trumpeted as the shape of the future.

"This is great news for the environment, for farmers and consumers," Greenpeace GM expert Ben Ayliffe told Reuters.

"Monsanto spent a great deal of time and money trying to push this stuff on farmers and consumers, but despite their best efforts -- even in countries that have historically been very pro-GM -- they have managed to fail.

"This is certainly a significant setback for GM. It is fantastic news because this was Monsanto's big flagship product. It was the product that they thought was going to finally break the consumer rejection of GM," he added.

A spokeswoman for the British Consumers' Association declined to comment on the specific decision but said consumers felt more testing was needed before GM crops became the norm.

"We feel that more work needs to be done before GM is introduced. We believe that consumers are the least likely to benefit from GM, while those with the technology will gain most," she told Reuters.

Juniper and Ayliffe both said there was rising resistance to GM crops around the world -- from consumers who didn't want to eat them, to farmers who therefore couldn't see a market.

"Monsanto has said it is going to push on with its staple crops of soybeans, cotton, oilseed rape and maize. But if you look at these, 99 percent of them are grown in four countries -- Argentina, Canada, China and the USA," Ayliffe said.

"The markets are not expanding for GM crops. The consumer rejection is there... and I don't think it is going to go away fast," he added.

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