52 Icelandic scientists and professors have voiced their opposition to a parliamentary proposal which would prohibited genetically modified (GM) crops from being grown outside.
The controversy surrounding GM crops in Iceland goes back at least two years. In 2010, Orf Genetics wanted to begin growing GM barley in the northeast Iceland, in a nursery called Barra. They had long contended that their crops are safe and that there is no danger of cross-pollination.
However, nearby is an organic farm called Mother Earth (Móðir jörð) which grows organic vegetables and barley. They say that their concerns have been unanswered by anyone associated with the Barra project. Furthermore, Eygló Björk Ólafsdóttir, a farmer from the area, said she was unconvinced of the alleged safety of GM barley from Orf, saying that the entire prospect of growing GM crops in Iceland is unexplored and needs further study before any licenses to grow it are issued.
Nonetheless, town council in the region decided to issue an operating license to Orf anyway. They contended that the GM barley, being grown within a nursery, poses little to no danger of being able to cross-pollinate with other crops in the area. However, parliament responded by submitting a proposal that would ban GM crops from being grown outdoors.
Now, 52 scientists and academics have signed on as in opposition to the proposal (.pdf file).
Supported by MPs from The Movement, the Social Democrats and the Leftist-Greens, the proposal argues the ban would help defend Icelandic nature from the cross-pollination which can occur with the planting of outdoor GM crops. Furthermore, they cite the directorate of the European Union, which grants nations the right to ban the outdoor growing of GM crops not just for environmental and economic reasons, but also for sociological reasons.
Áslaug Helgadóttir, a professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland, argued on the other hand that there are already strict regulations in place with regards to growing crops – that GM crops have to be rigorously tested before they will be allowed to be grown outside. Furthermore, the risk of cross-pollination is rapidly decreasing.
If passed, the proposal would ban the outdoor growing of GM crops on January 1, 2014.
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