According to this article European Union countries are not allowed to have genetically modified (GM) crops:

While nearly two-thirds of European Union countries have opted out of growing GM crops, the bloc still imports 12 million metric tons of unsustainable GM soy for animal feed, says Matthias Krön, managing director of Danube Soya.

Since having non-GM crop overnight is not possible, EU countries have to import about 95% of the total quantity.

Question: why did EU countries adopt such a brutal policy against GM soy crops while they still import a large quantity of GM soy?

One should expect some transitional threshold like those set forth for waste or energy generation from renewable resources.

  • 4
    Has the EU ever produced 12M tons of soy?
    – user9389
    Apr 21, 2017 at 20:49
  • @notstoreboughtdirt - I don't think that it ever produced such a quantity. So, imports are required. But why make it worse? We know we have to import, we can have some crops, GM mostly, but at least avoid massively importing. And force a policy like those for waste (higher and higher percentages on recycling as time passes). From the economical point of view, making artificial imports does not sound good, but maybe there is more that meets the eye. Thus my question.
    – Alexei
    Apr 21, 2017 at 20:56
  • @DavidBlomstrom - No, I am saying (actually, this article is saying this) that EU bans GMO soy crops within EU borders, but still imports large quantities of GMO soy from outside of EU. In the mean time, some countries are increasing their GMO-free crops, but why the ban, since most of the imported soy is GMO anyway?
    – Alexei
    Apr 27, 2017 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


It's a matter of basic values. We Europeans are quite socially oriented, and things that go against the well-being of the people are seriously frowned upon. One of the worst things you could do as a European politician is to appear to prefer profits over your constituents' health. Since GM crops are controversial and can be potentially unhealthy, the decision is simple - we'd rather pay more for imported feed than to allow this unholy abomination pollute our land.

If Europe were suffering from shortage of food, I don't think we'd be so picky. We're not actually stupid and most of us know that it's all almost certainly just a lot of fuss over nothing. But since we have more than we can eat anyway, why risk it, right? Also, we like our traditions, and the 2 of them most pertinent to this case are:

  1. Organic farming
  2. Being different than the Americans
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Apr 19, 2018 at 22:01

Europe can ban GM soybeans, because there is a ready supply of non GM soybeans, enough to meet their needs. Brazil has boosted soybean production dramatically over the last decade, and can supply those needs.

But, if we look a bit deeper, there is a problem with this.

Soybeans are a very high protein plant. Consequently, they tend to draw out a lot of minerals from the soil, more than just about any crop. In more developed agriculture, such as in the US, this problem is addressed by rotating crops: soybeans grown for one year, with grasses for the next two years to replenish the minerals in the soil, so that the land doesn't become barren.

In Brazil, they don't do this. As this article illustrates, Brazilian farmers simply grow soybeans until the soil is exhausted, and then flatten more rain forests to get more fresh soil. Of course, when soybeans have exhausted the minerals in the soil, not a lot else will grow there for quite some time. But, since Brazil has more land than hard currency, it's cheaper to just destroy more rain forest than replenish the land that has already been cleared.

In addition, the soybeans grown in the US have been modified to boost their defenses against weeds and insects. This isn't 'frankenplant', it is simply increasing the plant's production of substances they were already producing, that keep insects and weeds away from the plant. Many plants do this... walnut trees produce a toxic sap (that also produces their bitter smell) to keep other plants and insects away.

Consequently, the non modified soybeans require much higher levels of insecticides and herbicides to keep the soy plants from being overwhelmed by weeds and insects. Due to the nature of the soy plant, which tends to spread out across the ground rather than grow upright, weeds can't be controlled by cultivation... which would destroy the soy plant as well.

All crops grown for food today are genetically modified from their original form. What we're quibbling over is whether that modification is done in the lab or by selective breeding.

So in this case, Europe has simply shifted soybean farming to a much more destructive form. It appears that their social conscience may not extend beyond their own borders.

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