Monsanto said on July 17 that it will progressively withdraw applications for commercial growing of genetically modified organisms pending in Brussels and no longer seek approval in Europe for new genetically modified (GM) seeds. The St. Louis–based agbiotech giant intends to concentrate on other markets, while focusing on conventional agriculture in the EU. Monsanto is pulling out after 15 years of investing in R&D and 400 field trials conducted in Europe. “Monsanto's decision this summer and BASF's last year could be seen as inevitable given Europe's thirst for innovative industries,” says Nathalie Moll from the European Association of Biotech Industries in Brussels (Nat. Biotechnol. 30, 204, 2012). Even if applications to cultivate GM crops in the EU are dropped, an efficient authorization process for GM imports remains important to biotech growers worldwide, Moll adds. “It seems that in future, Europe will continue to import and consume GM feed and industrial crops, yet these will not be produced by Europe's own farmers,” says Robert Paarlberg, a policy analyst at Harvard. Sales of the only GM seeds approved for planting in the EU—MON810 corn—will continue, but the GM corn represents a negligible share of the corn under cultivation in the continent. “Consumers and the environment will pay the bill. The relevant science in Europe is fading away or leaving. There is, however, hope: the young generation appears more biotech-friendly,” says Hans-Jörg Jacobsen from the Leibniz University of Hannover in Germany.
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Meldolesi, A. Monsanto waves white flag. Nat Biotechnol 31, 776 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0913-776