10th GMO FREE EUROPE Conference to mobilise against EU Commission's deregulation proposal
Environmental and food activists, farmers, business people, scientists, ministers, and policy makers from all across Europe are gathering today at the European Parliament for the 10th GMO FREE EUROPE Conference (GMWatch will be there). They will discuss how to respond to a proposal by the European Commission to broadly deregulate the EU's legislation on genetic engineering in food and agriculture.
Most genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the pipeline would be exempted from the present GMO legislation. The Commission proposes to deregulate all GMOs with modifications below an arbitrary number of no more than 20 different sites in the genome and no more than 20 nucleotides at each site. They could be marketed without the labelling and traceability that would have allowed them to be recalled, should something go wrong. No prior risk assessment and approval would be required for these GMOs.
According to a first assessment of the German Federal Office on Nature Protection, more than 90 percent of GMOs in the pipeline, which are created by means of the new gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas, would fall under this near total deregulation (category 1). Only a few other GMOs would still have to undergo a reduced risk assessment (category 2). For these GMOs only the intended effects of the manipulation would be assessed, while unintended effects would not be addressed.
Consumers could no longer chose whether or not to eat genetically engineered food and food processors could no longer guarantee the purity of their produce, despite the fact that a large majority of European citizens demand transparency and clear labelling of GMO in their food. Organic producers would be obliged to keep their products free of GMOs at their own costs, but would have no means identify them, apart from labelling of certified seed. Co-existence between GMO-farmers and Non-GMO-farmers would be left to the member states. But their right to prohibit or regulate cultivation of GMOs on their territory would be withdrawn.
“If this proposal would be adopted by the European Parliament and Council it would be the end of the precautionary approach in European GMO legislation and of consumer choice and transparency,” said Benedikt Haerlin from “Save Our Seeds”, which has organised the GMO FREE EUROPE Conferences since 2005. “It would also reshape the seed market, as the new hidden GMOs would still be patented. Breeders and farmers rights of free to access the gene pool of seeds would soon be blocked by intellectual property claims of big seed and agrochemical companies and their law firms.”
Participants of the GMO FREE EUROPE Conference will mobilise against the adoption of the proposal and the introduction of hidden GMOs into European food and agriculture. “What we need is collaboration and trust amongst all players in the food system, as well as respect for nature and diversity,” said Haerlin. “If they really want to play a role in addressing the challenges of climate change, toxic emissions and biodiversity loss, producers and proponents of GMOs should be playing by the rules and not trying to force them upon farmers and consumers.”
Source: Save Our Seeds