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On May 25, more than two million people in 52 countries around the world banded together to protest agribusiness giant Monsanto and its harmful impact on farmers, consumers and the environment.
Now, it appears that the worldwide March Against Monsanto has forced the hand of the behemoth, recently named “Most Evil Corporation” in an online survey. Last week, the German newspaper Tageszeitung (Taz), reported that Monsanto will halt the pursuit of licenses for any new GM plants in most parts of western Europe. They will also terminate all plans to do any new field trials of GM seeds in these areas. Monsanto Germany spokeswoman, Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane, told Taz, “We’ve come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment.”
The company is making it clear that it will only pursue market penetration of biotech crops in areas that provide broad support.
“We’re going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system,” says Monsanto corporate spokesman Thomas Helscher. “As far as we’re convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal.”
The decision marks a victory for the growing global movement against GMOs, which has consistently made Monsanto a primary target. Alongside street protests, many European countries have been stepping up the regulatory battle against GMOs — in January, eight EU nations banned the cultivation of GM crops.
While activists are cheering this reversal by Monsanto in Europe, the ag giant’s foothold in the U.S. continues to deepen. In March, President Obama signed the so-called Monsanto Protection Act into law, and last month a controversial Supreme Court ruling upheld $840,000 in fines against a small farmer who had replanted GMO seeds, even though he initially purchased them legally. Last year, the agribusiness spent nearly $6 million lobbying American politicians — the kind of influence critics argue led the Department of Justice to close a three-year antitrust investigation of Monsanto last year.
While these hard realities pose hefty challenges to anti-Monsanto activists in the U.S., the corporation’s relent in Europe shows that sustained action — and bringing millions into the streets — can still propel change, even by the most evil of corporations.
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Miles Kampf-Lassin, a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School in Deliberative Democracy and Globalization, is a Web Editor at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter @MilesKLassin