Citizens' concerns and already-proven farming solutions to climate change are dismissed
On November 29, the European Commission led by Vice-President Timmermans will discuss the deregulation of a new generation of genetically modified (GM) plants, also called new genomic techniques, with stakeholders.
The conference already presents new GMOs as a "way forward for safe and sustainable innovation in the agri-food sector", while other voices and arguments are being brushed aside by Health and Food Safety Commissioner Kyriakides:
* More than 69,000 citizens told the European Commission they oppose deregulation of new GMOs and demanded it applies Europe's existing GMO safety and labelling laws during the 4-week consultation that took place in October 2021.
* 161 civil society, farmers and business organisations demanded to keep this new generation of GMOs regulated as GMOs.
* Ministers from Austria, Germany, Hungary and Luxembourg call for clear safety checks, labelling and the precautionary principle to be applied to new GMOs.
For more than 30 years, the use of and political framework for genetically modified seeds and food has been highly controversial in Europe. Now, the European Commission's health division (DG Sante) is paving the way for deregulation of a new wave of GMOs. Crops developed using these new genomic or breeding techniques (NGT) would be grown and marketed without prior safety checks and exempted from labelling requirements – keeping farmers and consumers completely in the dark. And yet the Commission is blatantly thinking about labelling them as sustainable food.
Friends of the Earth Europe has been heavily critical of the Commission's deregulation plans, which are biased towards the agribusiness following its sustained campaign to win exemptions from safety and labelling regulations for new GMOs.
The outline of the new legislation makes unsubstantiated claims about the new genomic techniques' supposed benefits, based solely on products that are still in the early stages of research. The claim that NGTs would contribute to the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy's objectives relies on assumptions regarding potential crops that might be developed in the future and not on those (few) crops that are market ready or in the application process. This claim is not substantiated and the Commission relies far too heavily on false promises by GMO developers and associated lobby groups.
An investigation led by Friends of the Earth Europe reveals that sustainable food systems such as organic farming and agroecology present long-term evidence of being able to adapt to extreme weather and to drastically reduce the emissions of the farming sector.
Mute Schimpf, Food and Farming Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The European Commission's plans look like a wish list from the biotech industry. Decision-makers must not fall for it and need to put a stop at these attempts to allow new GMOs onto our fields and into our plates without safety checks and labelling. Giving in to agribusiness lobby groups' false promises would have Europe tear up decades of the precautionary principle.
“The Commission and European ministers need to get on with the urgent business of making our farming system more sustainable by phasing out industrial farming and promoting real and already-proven solutions like agroecology.”
Friends of the Earth Europe is convinced that the current legal framework for GMO is fit for purpose and should be maintained for new genomic techniques as the European Court of Justice ruled in 2018. Friends of the Earth Europe assesses the evidence on which the Commission has based its argument for the necessity for a new legislation for NGTs as biased and recommends to keep all generations of GMO regulated as GMO to ensure the strict implementation of the precautionary principle as defined in Europe's GMO law.
Next steps: The European Commission will publish an impact assessment followed by a new draft legislation planned for the end of 2022 or early 2023. The new draft will then be agreed upon with the Parliament and Council.
 https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13119-Legislation-for-plants-produced-by-certain-new-genomic-techniques/feedback_en?p_id=26519622 4
 Civil society open letter: 161 civil society organisations call on Commission Vice-President Timmermans to regulate new GMOs: https://friendsoftheearth.eu/publication/regulate-new-gmos
 Statements from the Agriculture ministers from Hungary and Luxembourg at the Council meeting https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/agrifish/2021/05/26-27/ and from the Austrian Health minister in German https://www.diepresse.com/5971266/gentechnik-auf-dem-acker-keine-hilfe-fur-bauern.
Statement from the German environment minister: https://www.bmu.de/pressemitteilung/schulze-auch-bei-neuer-gentechnik-bestehendes-gentechnikrecht-umsetzen/
 Pioneer HT Maize DP915635 (application for approval in EU submitted), Sanatech Sicilian Rouge High GABA, Calyxt FAD2KO “high-oleic acid” soybean variety, Cibus HT Canola.
 JRC Science for Policy Report - Current and future market applications of New Genomic Techniques, https://doi.org/10.2760/02472
 The Court ruling: in 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled that existing EU GMO safety law applies to the new generation of GMOs. The court said that the new GMOs should not be excluded from EU safety and labelling rules and underlined that the potential risks posed by new GMOs “might prove to be similar to those that result from the production and release of a GMO through transgenesis". Under the current law, the protection of human health and the environment states that attention must be given to controlling risks from the deliberate release of GMOs. (Ruling of the European Court of Justice, 25 July 2018, Case C-528/16 https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-07/cp180111en.pdf)
The ruling means that the new generation of GM crops and seeds should go through safety checks, an authorisation process, and be labelled before they can be placed on the market.
Biotech industry lobbying: Biotech companies want less regulation for GMOs and have sought to portray new GMO techniques such as gene editing (including CRISPR-Cas) as no different from traditional plant breeding methods – even though the techniques involve editing plant DNA, and in spite of the European Court of Justice’s ruling affirming this. The aim of their campaign is to prevent new GMOs from being labelled, and ensuring they can be grown and imported without any safety checks.
Source: Friends of the Earth Europe