The Cultural Shift Away From Transgenic and Genetically Modified Crops in Europe Could Be Bad Business for Spain.

¨The Practice of Local Organic Triumphs Over Foreign and Transgenic.¨

Transgenic and genetically modified crops can be bad for business in the long run due to a cultural shift and social awareness of the dangers of  ¨American style¨ agronomic business practices in European Union member states.

 The first genetically modified food in the world to be sold in supermarkets was the tomato. In 1994, the FlavrSavr tomato hit the shelves in the United States after previously being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. The tomato has a deactivated gene that allows it to ripen from green to red on the vine, and an added gene that prevents rotting – essentially creating a tomato that is as hard as an apple that lasts a lot longer. Scientists and government agencies in the USA have repeatedly said that transgenic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in foods are ¨safe for human consumption¨ stating that it is just as safe as conventional (non-transgenic foods). This debate is still being held between scientist on both sides of the aisle presenting evidence for and against its production and consumption, while the environmental impact is stuck in the middle, once again sacrificing the environment for the economy

The reality of transgenic foods like the tomato is that some people, who are old enough to remember, notice that nowadays, tomatoes don´t taste the way they used to, nor have the same amount of nutrients they had say thirty years ago. One example of lost nutrients is how the polysaccharide (sugar) pectin, which is naturally produced and broken down by the tomato for ripening, is reduced in genetically modified versions so that a tougher skin can resist bruising during harvesting. Pectin in humans has been shown to add to our soluble dietary fiber and reduce blood cholesterol levels. In addition, some transgenic crops are grown in sand, which has very little nutrients, henceforth, they need to be added. So what are the real benefits of producing transgenic foods?

In the past, some scientist praised genetically modified organisms in foods claiming that with the capacity  to produce more food, with fewer resources, humanity could solve world hunger and reduce food prices. Economic history shows that there was plenty of food in the world before the advent of  transgenic crops, the problem is that people die from hunger from the climate, spatial and economic reasons (drought, food is far away, or food is too expensive). According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about one-third of all food produced in the world is ¨lost or wasted¨.

¨Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).¨

One can deduce that producing more food doesn´t necessarily reduce malnutrition or hunger, but the economic implications show that having capital, water and land are most important in combating hunger.

As people in the Western world inform themselves better about the economic and environmental implications of GMO and transgenic crops, they will begin to shun them in favor of non-GMO crops that are not only more nutritious, but practicing ecological agronomics could potentially create more local jobs. Factory farms and transgenic super-plantations require very few people, are far removed from the general population, and require a lot of chemicals and machines. Why is it that the majority of the food people in New York eat come from California? – a distance of about 3,000 miles (4,828,km).

Transgenic food has taken hold of the European Union in a market that culturally has been trying to maintain their alimentary sovereignty free from ¨American style¨ crop production. The member state that produces the most transgenic or GM crops is Spain. Genetically-modified maize (corn) and potatoes are currently the only two GM crops approved in the EU. Soya, tobacco, and even trial versions for GM pest-resistant olive trees are being considered for production in Spain. About 90% of Europe´s transgenic crops – led by U.S. multinational Monsanto´s MON810 corn – is cultivated in Spain. The majority of this corn is used as animal feed for the country´s famous meat markets (hogs, chickens, cow, etc). One problem farmers and consumers face is the lack of transparency and regulation in terms of what the farmers are feeding their animals, and what people are actually eating. It has been reported that farmers feed their animals a mixture of transgenic and conventional corn, which essentially disallows farmers to chose between the two. The lack of transparency also denies its citizens to know exactly where this transgenic crop is being grown. Most Spanish citizens are against transgenic crops and would like for them to be labeled, but the European Union law states that if less than about 1.0% of the ingredients are transgenic, it does not have to be labeled.

As far as the philosophical implications of transgenic foods – namely corn or soya – is not so much as if it is used in society, but how it is used. Subjectively, I oppose the use of transgenic foods for human or animal consumption, but I have no problem if companies use transgenic crops for the production of ethanol, methanol, and other chemical compositions from transgenic crops. In the United States and Brazil, ethanol from corn (US) and sugarcane (Brazil) accounts for a large portion of combustible fuel production, replacing a significant amount of petroleum use, which contaminating slightly less than pure petroleum.

The economic implications transgenic foods might have for Spain and other member states that allow transgenic corn like Portugal, Czech Republic,Poland, and Romania might not come immediately, but permitting cultivation of more crops besides corn and potatoes to be produced might have a backlash effect. Germany is planning on prohibiting all GMO crops within its boarders.

As agro-business farmers in Europe are becoming ¨Americanized¨ in their acceptance of GMO foods, it could produce a schism in the way food is imported and exported in within Europe. Countries that are not part of the European Union, but form part of its economic region like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Serbia have delayed their acceptance of genetically modified organisms. These countries along with Germany, see prohibiting genetically modified and transgenic crops as a scientific, economic and cultural an issue that has many people thinking that it is a bad idea.

Though the evidence is hard to filter and difficult to prove that GMO foods are harmful to human health, one can take a look the North American diet and see how much obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases are attributed to the foods that Americans consume. The United States is the largest producer and consumer of transgenic foods in the world – and to say that transgenic food has nothing to do with the increase in deadly disease in the USA is an understatement.

If Spain continues to increment the amount of  transgenic crops and feed to hogs, chickens and other farm animals, there might be a backlash in member states whose people culturally reject the importation of animals fed with GMO in foods. The idea of local organic triumphs over foreign and transgenic.

As local regions in Europe begin to prohibit the cultivation, sale and distribution of transgenic crops, like The Free State of Bavaria in Germany,  it can be seen as a way to strengthen local business and keep unpopular enterprises like Monsanto out of their food chain.

Spain has the advantage of being the sunniest place in all of Europe, especially in the province of Almería, Spain, which boasts an average of 320 days of sun each year. It has been exploited for decades by local and foreign businesses (including Monsanto) in an area known as ¨The Sea of Plastic¨ (el mar de plástico). This desert area basically feeds europe during the winter as its climate permits crop growth all year round.

If those in the Spanish agricultural business adhere to American models in food production there will be a decrease not only in the quality of food products, but confidence and trust in food products marked ¨Product of Spain¨.  Since it is currently one of the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world there needs to be a cultural and economic shift to protect itself from transgenic foods.

By Opton A. Martin




Perspective of a system in which everyone can benefit: clean energy, full employment, and reduction of illegal immigration.

Could Spain and Nigeria be great business partners for resolving unemployment and energy crisis?


The recent global economic crisis has left its mark on the most prosperous of nations and the least. Governments all over the world decided to “rescue” the banks by giving them loans and injecting an absurd amount of money to prevent what would be another economic catastrophe.

What happens to average citizens now that the banks and governments are back on their feet? We still have to resolve the difficulties of unemployment, climate change, and irregular immigration, and very few people in the public eye have real solutions to these problems. Politicians adopt the rhetoric of their political parties; maintain circular arguments, which have no specific solutions, in order to confuse the public.

One of these countries suffering from high unemployment, climate change, and irregular immigration is the Kingdom of Spain, which is one of the ten largest economies of the European Union (five times larger than Greece). It is recorded that over 25% of the viable workforce is unemployed – double the average in the European Union.

Recently, austerity measures that the government and companies have taken in order to lower the unemployment rate and external debt seems to be contrary to popular opinion as many employees have to work more hours, take a reduction in salary, pay more taxes, take less vacation time, and among other things, accept a hike in costs of transportation and energy. All of these factors contribute to the reduction of local spending and consumption.

Although local industries like tourism, hospitality, and manufacturing are growing, there is still a market for diversifying exports to less industrial countries that desperately need the building blocks for their economies. It should be mentioned that Spain is the only European country that has a boarder that physically touches the African continent (Ceuta and Melilla). Spain has an advantage should it choose to invest in the market of exporting renewable energy.

Increasing exports of renewable energy to countries that lack facilities to produce sufficient electricity can lower the unemployment rate both in Spain and the destined country because it opens doors to other industries. Fabricating solar panels and wind turbines for export and developing the logistics for new agricultural industries (energy efficient greenhouses and water treatment plants) are necessary for elevating the standard of living.

The most industrial countries in the world have been investing in clean energy projects to reduce global warming and climate change, but started they too late, and are not working fast enough. As the price of petroleum based products fluctuate dramatically because of oil embargoes, high tariffs, reductions in production due to sabotage, oil spills, wars, and scandals involving stolen petroleum, now more than ever is the time to abandon fossil fuels, and embrace clean energy to meet our energy needs.

The least industrial countries of the world also want to increase their economic output in order to lift their citizens out of poverty. The problem is that there is a direct correlation between rich countries with large populations and their excessive demand for petroleum and natural gas. This sends a bad message to the countries that have the largest reserves of petroleum.

Inversely, the countries that export the largest quantities of the world’s petroleum, like those that pertain to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are known for their low levels of human rights, high levels of poverty, and lack of economic diversity, which puts the environment and their socioeconomic structure at risk. It should also be mentioned that with the exception of hydroelectric dams, no country included in OPEC currently has a clean energy program. Perhaps they are going to wait until the oil wells run dry before investing in alternative forms of energy.

Popular belief states that if a country or region wants to lift itself out of poverty, it must produce and export more commodities, but it is not that easy. The fact is that less developed countries lack the infrastructure necessary to produce enough electricity, which impedes further industrialization: without sufficient electricity; there is no industry.

Nigeria is an example of a country that depends heavily on the export of petroleum for its GDP. It also suffers from an energy crisis. To put the country profile in perspective, Nigeria has a population of about 170,000,000 people, but produces less electricity than Ireland, which has about 4,800,000 people.

Nor money, nor time should be an obstacle for not having already installed some form of clean energy in Nigeria or any other country. The once world’s largest wind farm in the year 2009 is located in Roscoe, Texas. Roscoe Wind Farm, with a price tag of about $ 1.000 million, has 634 wind turbines that stretch beyond 400km2 of land. All of this took about two years to construct and gives electricity to about 250,000 homes.

For Nigeria and other countries in the African continent to diversify their economies for inter-continental trade, they need to resolve their energy crisis. To start, Nigeria would have to import wind turbines and solar panels. This year, Nigeria has opened its doors to investors, professionals and companies for the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo. With luck, we will see not only companies interested in selling modes of alternative energy, but also those involved in ways of developing a domestic industry for African clean energy.

With respect to wind turbines, the United States, Germany, Denmark, Spain and India are home to companies that fabricate and install wind turbines in their home countries as well as in foreign countries. Due to high unemployment in Spain especially, they should be at the forefront of investments in the export of wind turbines and solar panels to open markets in Africa; they should do it before other countries in the European Union especially Germany since they have already recovered from the economic recession. Spain produces about 20% of all of its energy from renewable sources.

The current administration of Spain and other highly industrialized Western nations have recently reduced their investments in clean energy. They have taken two steps back in their attempts to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels and produce new employment opportunities in a necessary and burgeoning industry. If Spain would intend on doing more business with companies and government in the north and west of Africa by exporting wind turbines and solar panels, both partners would grow economically. Perhaps with new-found economic industries and resources less Africans would not have to risk their lives traveling by raft or crossing the Sahara to get to the barb-wired fences of Ceuta or Melilla. Unemployment is exacerbating xenophobia and racism in Europe and North America with far-right political parties blaming immigrants for ills in society.

The production of clean energy in Africa would have a two-pronged effect. First, in addition to being able to produce alternative energy locally, more industries will be possible thus, empowering the local workforce. After proper investment clean energy should be fabricated locally as many of the raw materials to make wind turbines and solar panels are mined locally. New urban centers should spring up, which can alleviate the congestion of the squalid slums of mega-cities like Lagos or Luanda.

Second, African nations can modernize their social and economic life without dependence on fossil fuel industrialization of the 20th Century, while maintaining its status as the inhabited continent that contributes the least to global warming.

There are plenty of social and political battles to confront; people of the world have to realize that we are all suffering the consequences of global warming and the rise in ocean sea levels from the contamination of fossil fuels regardless of where we live. We cannot separate social and economic problems from ecology.

Now more than ever is the time to take advantage of such an old technology like harvesting the kinetic energy from the wind, and such a new technology like photovoltaic solar cells to resolve the problems of the 21st Century.


By  Opton A. Martin