Conservative politicians torpedo EU pesticide reduction while calling for deregulation of new GMOs
In a spate of political horse-trading, the EU Commission is planning to sell the deregulation of new GMOs with EU pesticide reduction (Sustainable Use Regulation, or SUR for short) as a "package deal". However, an analysis by foodwatch shows that the hypothetical promises of new pest- or disease-resistant new GM (new genomic techniques, NGT) crops are a red herring.
"New GM crops do not bring pesticide reduction – on the contrary," say the NGOs GLOBAL 2000, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) and foodwatch. "Rather, deregulation of EU GMO law would give agribusinesses like Bayer or Corteva even greater control over our seeds and prop up the business model of herbicide-resistant seeds including pesticides in the package. The losers from this toxic deal would be the environment, biodiversity, and consumers and farmers."
Pesticide use increased – strong SUR (Sustainable Use of Pesticide Regulation) required
That GM crops help to reduce pesticide use is so far only an assertion of agribusiness. So far, the European Union has not published concrete figures on such a potential of new genetic engineering. Nor is there any research data on the subject. In countries with a high proportion of GM varieties, no pesticide reduction has been achieved in the 25 years since their introduction, or pesticide use has multiplied.
Lars Neumeister, study author and pesticide expert at foodwatch, said, "In Brazil, for example, pesticide use has more than quadrupled since 2000. When it comes to pesticide reduction in the European Union, the potential of New Genetic Engineering is currently close to zero. In contrast, the potential of pesticide reduction through preventive crop protection and ecological enhancement is 60 to 100 percent."
The groups want the EU to quickly introduce an ambitious law for the mandatory reduction of pesticides as well as a meaningful measurement instrument for recording pesticide reduction.
Business model: Pesticide vicious circle
Lars Neumeister said, "NGT crops will accelerate the loss of genetic diversity, especially if genetic engineering is under the control of a few global pesticide and seed corporations. Genetic uniformity is a major cause of pesticide use. Higher genetic uniformity in turn leads to higher pesticide use and the use of even more dangerous pesticides against resistant weeds. This fatal cycle boosts corporate sales."
The four largest seed companies own around 60% of the global seed market. These companies (Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva, BASF) are also the biggest sellers of pesticides.
On July 5, 2023, the legislative proposal for the EU genetic engineering law is expected.
There is reason to fear that the EU Commission will deregulate NGT plants under the pretext of pesticide reduction and that NGT plants will be marketed in the future without labelling and without sufficient risk assessment. At the same time, conservative EU politicians in particular are torpedoing the EU pesticide reduction bill in the current negotiations in the Council and the EU Parliament.
Brigitte Reisenberger of GLOBAL 2000 said, "The EU Commission must not get involved in this political horse-trading, because it is based on the false promises of the agribusiness lobby. New GM crops are driving up pesticide use and fuelling the biodiversity crisis. For a resilient, diverse and climate-adapted agriculture and the safeguarding of agricultural production for future generations, a strong, legally anchored commitment to pesticide reduction and a continued strict regulation and risk assessment of new GM crops are both needed."
The real solutions are on the table
Diversity in our fields and locally adapted, robust crop varieties are the key to an agriculture that effectively helps to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis. "Working with fewer or even no synthetic chemical pesticides is possible – organic farming shows that. Integrated pest management also relies first on prevention and the promotion of beneficial insects. A broader and more diverse crop rotation can contribute to fewer pests. Genetically modified plants with inserted herbicide resistance, on the other hand, certainly do not help. On the contrary, their cultivation, which involves more pesticide use, further damages biodiversity. Freedom of choice for ecological, GMO-free agriculture, but also for consumers, can only be ensured with a strong law on genetic engineering," said Pia Voelker of the German branch of Friends of the Earth Germany (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. – BUND).
Source: GLOBAL 2000