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Family-run brewery serves up GM beer

French anti-GM protesters destroy Monsanto crops in 2001.




YSTAD, Sweden (CNN) -- The Kenth brewery in Ystad, Sweden, is anything but a giant corporation.

But the small family-run brewery is the unlikely setting for one of the latest attempts by the GM food lobby to persuade Europeans to change their attitudes about scientifically altered food.

Kenth brews its beer using corn that has been genetically modified to protect it against pests.

Master brewer Kenth Persson is aware that the use of GM ingredients is not to everyone's taste and admits the brewery is taking a risk.

"But I think it's very interesting to be doing a new thing and that is what brewers like me want to do," he said. "We cannot do things in the same way as the big breweries like Carlsberg. We try to do things differently."

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first GM crop being planted in the U.S.

The amount being cultivated in the U.S. and South America has increased since then, but elsewhere the battle to convert the world to the benefits of scientifically altered food has been far from smooth.

In Europe only Spain and Romania have fully embraced GM crops, producing more than 50,000 hectares a year.

Ironically the corn used by Kenth is grown in Germany -- one of the European countries most strongly opposed to GM foods.

Matthias Berninger, Germany's undersecretary for consumer affairs, told CNN that ultimately the fate of GM produce would be decided by the consumer.

"The thing is since we have clear-cut labeling regulations in Europe GM food is banned because our consumers don't want to eat it," he said.

"In a market driven economy the consumer should have the right to choose whether he likes the technology or not and that is something some multinational companies should bear in mind."

But Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, whose company's name has become synonymous with GM food, says there are signs that Europeans are slowly coming round to the idea of modified food.

"For five years or six years, almost nothing happened in Europe, there was a de facto moratorium where products weren't approved," said Grant.

"But Europe has redefined and redesigned the regulatory architecture and the last year we saw the beginnings of products being approved. I passionately hope we will see that pace picking up."

Rose Gray of London's renowned River Cafe believes the case for using GM ingredients hasn't yet been made.

"I think if there is any application for GM food, it's for Third World countries where they've got problems with growing," he said.

"I don't feel it applies to European countries. I mean we just need to be better farmers and using traditional methods where you get proper flavors."

Her vaguely conciliatory tone is at odds with some of the stronger criticism leveled at organizations like Monsanto.

Grant claims that the bad press his company receives is mostly due to being first with new technology: "For any new technology there is always controversy and there always some fear associated with it. I think that's just the price of being first sometimes."

Opponents of GM food argue that simple supply and demand will determine whether GM products survive.

In the bars of Sweden the push to persuade people to try Kenth's beer continues. But as attitudes harden it could be that GM producers will soon be drinking in the last chance saloon.

Food campaigner Morgan Spurlock told CNN the GM debate in the U.S. had reached levels beyond whether people were pro or anti.

"The debate continues in America, but anytime people start to question it the people start to say, 'Well you're against farmers, you're against farming in America,'" Spurlock said.

"But it's not the farmer that this is going against. It's against the giant corporations that have taken over the farming industry in America and are starting to infiltrate other countries around the world."

CNN's Tom Hayes and Liz George contributed to this report.

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