In France, a research facility owned by biotech firm Monsanto has been subject to significant damage by a fire that was believed to be the result of arson. The fire erupted this October, on the same exact day that Vytenis Andriukaitis, the commissioner of food safety, was unable to win the European Parliament’s favor over his proposal to allow nations of the EU to individually ban GMOs.
Because there were no possible accidental ignition sources at the scene, officials believe that the fire was a deliberate crime. Up until now, no European Monsanto facilities had been subjected to such violence, and the event could set a new precedence.
The fire apparently erupted from two separate locations within the facility, fueling speculation that it was unlikely to have been the result of some natural or accidental occurrence. In addition, officials encountered the distinct odor of a gasoline-based accelerant on the premises. Luckily, the fire started at approximately 1:00 AM, and no employees were present in the building.
France: The Core Of The GMO Controversy
France is one of the central locations where the controversy over GMO foods has played out. In June, the French government enacted a nation-wide ban of the herbicide Roundup, over fears that the main ingredient, glyphosate, could possibly cause cancer in the populace.
In addition, the chemical could be leading to a decimation of the bee population, which could indirectly result in a collapse of the food supply due to a lack of pollinating insects. In response to this, the French government indicated last September that they would begin to implement a ban on GMO crops, using a possible new plan in the EU that would allow states to individually choose to ban the growing of modified plants.
However, the Parliament in fact chose to not enact the plan, as it would require further approval before it could be passed into law. In addition, the plan would be difficult to enforce in individual states due to the possibility of GMO products passing freely through borders from non-banning states anyway.
Some politicians argue that having a mechanism to ban GMOs in some states, but not in others, would be impractical and introduce unnecessary complications. Much of the EU imports GMO feed for their own domestic herds. In response to this hesitation, members of anti-GMO groups decided to take it upon themselves to make a statement.
In practice, such a plan might very well be unenforceable. Were imported GMO products to arrive at the port of a neighboring state that had no such ban, there are currently no measures in place to prevent a shipment from easily arriving in France via land.
It could be that the Parliament’s decision triggered the possible arson, but, for now, the fire is only one of a multitude of set-backs that Monsanto faces in France.
The downfall of Monsanto in France
Monsanto has approximately nine facilities sprinkled throughout France, three of which were recently shut down because of declining profits. Monsanto research centers located in Middleton, Wisconsin, Mystic, Connecticut and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina will be closed soon because of financial cutbacks, as well.
In August, Monsanto announced that it would cut 2,600 jobs, or 12 percent of its workforce, in order to lower costs. The company stated it lost 19 cents per share in the most recent quarter. Profits are expected to stay low for the remainder of the year.
According to the Associated Press, Monsanto lost a whopping $156 million in the last quarter of last year. The last quarter of this year is expected to be worse than the last quarter in 2014. The recent fire serves as a reminder for how heated the GMO debate really is in France.
Featured image: GMO.news
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