Monday, November 15, 2004

Italians give GMO crops an
appropriately Pyrrhic victory

The Greek king Pyrrhus hoped to reestablish the empire his second cousin, Alexander the Great, had once created. When that didn't work, he turned westward. During a battle against Rome he routed the Roman army, but sustained such great losses that he is quoted as saying, "One more such victory and we are undone."

So, too, modern-day Romans seem to have handed another would-be conqueror, the makers of genetically modified crops, a Pyrrhic victory in allowing the planting of GMO seeds. The new Italian law will also allow individual regions to ban such crops. Even before the law's passage 13 of 20 regions and 1,500 towns had already done so. And, the law will provide for strict regulations to prevent contamination of the country's non-GMO crops. All of this in a country where 70 percent of the citizens oppose genetically modified crops.

While this may look like an opening for GMO seed producers, to me it looks more like a trap. Those who plant GMO crops are likely to have the weight of the Italian masses come down upon them. The whole process seems destined to stir up additional hatred of GMO products, especially if anything goes wrong. No doubt the rest of Europe will be watching.

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