The Shackled Man Theory says that holding someone back for half of a race and then setting them free later means the shackled racer can never really catch up. 

If so, environmentalists have already poisoned the well to such a large extent in Europe that genetically modified food may never catch on, but at least consumers are not faced with a centralized blanket ban based on nothing but hysteria.

Now they can have centralized blanket bans that at least a politician of their own can be held accountable for.  The EU wants to let individual countries decide whether or not to allow GMOs. That is good news, because now no individual country can weasel out of the issue by saying they have no choice, the EU has made the decision.

Obviously this has risks too. Individual member states could ban products that are already legal, even without any evidence of harm, just because they invent some environmental reason. But it's still democracy, unlike policy based on a mutated precautionary principle like they have now. Optimistically, we have to hope Europeans want to enter the 21st century and will at least consider the evidence-based approach.

Credit: AFP

"All member states, with the exception of Belgium and Luxembourg, have given their agreement," Greek Agriculture Minister Ioannis Maniatis said after a meeting with his EU colleagues.

What changed? Monsanto had given up trying to get a vote on the matter.  No one is saying yet but I am betting it is stealth work by Dr. Anne Glover, the EU's first science advisor. Her first order of business, she said, was to make Europe more like America when it came to science acceptance, starting with GMOs. 

If so, she may end up being the most influential voice for poor people worldwide since Norm Borlaug. Every environmentalist against GMOs (which is to say, all of them except Greenpeace Australia, which abstains) uses 'banned in Europe' as a crutch and a rationale, without ever mentioning that plenty of products have won EU approval and Monsanto's MON810 maize is still grown - and that many cows in Europe eat GM feed.

It's not over, this still has to go to the European Parliament, where plenty of environmentalists and strong Green Party politicians will try to derail it out of fear that letting people consider evidence and decide may go against anti-science beliefs. And they will be aided by anti-immigration xenophobes. The only thing that prevents developing nations from being able to compete with European agriculture are subsidies and a blockade on GMOs. If a GMO blockade is lifted, third world farmers will be able to sell their goods rather than watch imported European food being sold locally for less than they can grow it themselves.