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Food & the Law

Hungary Destroys Genetically Modified Corn Crops

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Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR/STEVENDEPOLO

Hungary has destroyed almost 1,000 acres of corn found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, which are illegal in the country, International Business Times reports. The corn was plowed under so that pollen would not contaminate other crops.

The action came in response to a new regulation introduced in March that stipulates that seeds are supposed to be checked for GMO before they can be sold to farmers. But some of the GMO seeds, manufactured by U.S. seed giants Monsanto and Pioneer, made it onto the market anyway. The Hungarian government said it will continue to test seeds despite the fact that seed sellers are obliged to make sure their products are GMO-free.

Last week the Hungarian unit of Monsanto, the largest producer of GMO seeds, appealed to the Budapest Municipal Court to suspend the resolution by the Hungarian Agriculture Office to destroy the corn, but they were turned down, according to the Budapest Times.

With the growing season already underway, it's too late to sow new seeds, so this year's harvest is a total loss.

Monsanto released a statement saying it "respects Hungary's efforts to prevent the production of genetically manipulated plants on Hungarian farms. Monsanto sells only traditional, not GMO seeds to Hungary. Our seeds can only enter Hungarian markets after they were tested for GMO and found clean, in accordance with national and international laws."

The company then suggested that, rather than it provide compensation to farmers, the Hungarian government buy up the corn seeds it "thinks" are GMO-infected. "The government has not responded," Monsanto said.

That is because Hungary is not playing.

Despite pressure from biotech companies and the European Union, Hungary is one of only a few EU countries that have fought successfully to keep GMO seeds from infiltrating their food supplies. Some scientists believe the seeds, which are genetically engineered to resist pesticides, pose serious health and environmental problems.

In the U.S., around 80 percent of all packaged foods contain GMOs. Around 85 percent of the corn, sugar beets, soybeans and canola in the country are grown from GMO seeds.

Last November, a California judge took the unprecedented step of ordering a crop of sugar beets grown from Monsanto seeds destroyed. District Judge Jeffrey White had previously ruled that the U.S. Agriculture Department illegally approved the biotech crop in 2005. He said the government failed to conduct a thorough environmental review before approving the crop, as required by law. The "Roundup Ready" sugar beet seedlings were dug up and destroyed.

Judge White isn't playing, either.

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