Let’s be clear. At Monsanto, we love biotech. We really do, for all kinds of good reasons. But it mystifies folks at Monsanto in Europe to keep hearing that people think that biotech seeds are the only thing that we sell in Europe, when in fact it’s the one thing that we hardly sell here at all. Monsanto’s seed business in Western Europe is 99% non-GM.
That’s not to say that we wouldn’t love to sell more GM seeds. We believe they’re good for farmers, millions of hungry people and the planet, and more and more farmers and countries around the world agree with the scientists who have declared them not just safe but beneficial. Even in Europe, farmers who have been allowed to grow GM seeds have done so in greater numbers every year because they help solve problems that farmers understand. Seeds with one GM maize “trait” (modification) have been sold in Spain and Portugal for the past 15 years and have helped both countries increase yields and reduce imports while saving water and energy. Very small amounts have been planted in a few other countries in Europe. In fact, with the exception of Europe, most of the world is eagerly adapting biotech crops.
In Europe, we made the strategic decision–several years ago, actually–to focus almost entirely on conventional crops until such time as European policy makers stop pandering to the GM fear-mongers in their midst.
So what do we do in Europe? Monsanto has three main businesses in Europe : conventional (e.g. non-GM) maize, oilseed rape and vegetable seeds, along with crop protection chemicals. Our conventional maize, oilseed rape, broccoli and tomato seeds have been as successful in Europe as our biotech maize and cotton are in Africa. Monsanto’s Roundup is one of Europe’s world’s leading weed control products.
We also sell seeds to some organic farmers—but not many. Organic food accounts for less than 5% of the market in most countries in Europe, and less than 10% even in organic “strongholds” such as Denmark, Austria and Switzerland. The reality is that organic food is a lifestyle choice shared by just a small minority of the population.
Most farmers depend on agrochemicals to help them fight pests ranging from bugs, to weeds and fungi that can decimate harvests. Herbicides are the primary and most effective tool for farmers to manage weeds and maximize crop yields. They even enable the use of conservation tillage (ploughing) practices such as no-till and reduced tillage. Without herbicides, conservation tillage would not be possible, resulting in the foregoing of such benefits as reduced soil erosion and enhanced moisture control.