Poland has banned the cultivation of some strains of genetically modified (GM) corn and potatoes just one day after the European Union rules approving GM crops went into effect.
Agence France-Presse reports that the center-right Polish government led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk ordered a ban on the cultivation of BASF's Amflora potatoes and Monsanto's MON 810 corn.
The ban on specific strains capitalizes on a legal loophole to enable Poland to skirt the EU blanket approval of GM crops.
The environmental group Greenpeace, which strongly opposes GM foods, hailed the Polish decision.
"The government has kept its promises," Greenpeace said in a statement, referring to Tusk's pledge to ban GM crops.
The Polish ban will take effect on January 28.
France and other EU nations had previously banned Monsanto's MON 810 maize after research and real-world events convinced lawmakers that the seeds were harmful to humans and the environment. Documents released by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks revealed that the George W. Bush administration had threatened retaliation against France for banning Monsanto's corn.
The US government is a staunch proponent of GM foods, and President Barack Obama has appointed former Monsanto Vice President Michael Taylor as a senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is also a strong supporter of GM foods, having founded the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership. Vilsack, who served as the governor of Iowa before joining the Obama administration, won the Biotechnology Industry Organization's Governor of the Year award in 2001.
Monsanto, one of the world's leading producers and marketers of GM seeds, spent more than $8 million to defeat California's Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would have required the labeling of many GM foods. The measure initially enjoyed very strong support, but a propaganda campaign funded by Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations and special interest groups eroded public backing and the measure ultimately failed to pass on Election Day.
Agribusiness corporations and the US government insist that genetically modified foods are safe. But there have been few, if any, long-term scientific studies of humans to determine whether this is true. In 2009, a massive failure of Monsanto GM corn crops in South Africa caused widespread economic damage. Negative health effects have also been reported; a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences revealed that three varieties of Monsanto corn, including MON 810, caused organ damage in laboratory rats. Another study of rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto GM corn found that they suffered from much higher than normal rates of cancer and died significantly younger than control rats.