But new GMOs will still be subject to labelling and traceability, thanks to a strong campaign supported by hundreds of thousands of citizens
1. New GMOs: Tight EU Parliament vote removes safety checks and liability – Friends of the Earth Europe
2. European Parliament chooses its position: for labelling and traceability of all New GMOs – ENGA
3. EU Parliament votes to scrap safety rules on new GMOs in handout to biotech industry – Corporate Europe Observatory
4. More misery for farmers as EU Parliament endorses draft law to deregulate GMOs – Greenpeace
1. New GMOs: Tight EU Parliament vote removes safety checks and liability
Friends of the Earth Europe, 7 Feb 2024
Today, the European Parliament adopted in a tight vote the Commission’s proposal to widely deregulate the new generation of genetically modified organisms (new GMOs, or so-called “New Genomic Techniques” or NGT). A majority of parliamentarians voted to remove new GMOs from safety checks and liability processes, putting nature at risk with the release of untested genetically modified plants into European fields.
The European Parliament approved a legislative proposal that allows corporations to market new GMOs without any type of safety checks for impacts on human health and the environment. It also removes corporations selling new GMOs and farmers growing them from liability if any harm occurs.
Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“Has the majority of MEPs completely forgotten that their duty lies in protecting their constituents’ rights, not gifting the industry and its lobbies over and over again? The Parliament’s decision to approve the wide deregulation of new GMOs comes as yet another heavy blow for farmers across Europe and for the environment, after they recently killed the pesticide regulation and watered down the nature restoration law.”
Friends of the Earth Europe acknowledges the Parliament’s attempt to limit patents on new GMOs, but the proposal still exposes farmers and breeders to infringement lawsuits by some of the biggest agribusiness corporations like Corteva and Bayer.
On the positive side, the Parliament listened to many farmers and consumers’ concerns and improved the Commission’s proposal by introducing a new GMO label and transparency requirements along the whole food chain.
Next steps: Member States diplomats are meeting today to discuss the upcoming EU Council’s position on the file. Friends of the Earth Europe calls on EU ministers to maintain basic safety checks, uphold farmers’ and consumers’ right to transparency and information, and protect their freedom to choose what they grow, buy and eat.
2. European Parliament chooses its position: for labelling and traceability of all New GMOs
ENGA, 7 Feb 2024
In its plenary vote today on New GMOs, the European Parliament voted in favour of labelling and traceability requirements for all New GMOs, following amendments tabled by the Greens and S&D. Should the Parliament’s position become law business operators (breeders, farmers, food and feed processors, retailers) and consumers will continue to have the right to know what is in their value chains and their food.
Unfortunately, amendments for risk assessment, coexistence measures and the right of Member States to prohibit or restrict cultivation on their territory did not find a majority.
ENGA (the European Non-GMO Industry Association), on behalf of the Non-GMO food industry in Europe, welcomes the European Parliament’s stance to support business operators’ and citizens’ basic right to information: knowing what it is that they are producing, buying and eating. On the other hand, there is a lack of important measures to safeguard GMO-free production, in particular EU-wide legally binding coexistence rules to keep agriculture and food production free of GMO contamination.
The Europe Parliament’s vote is its negotiating position for the trilogue between the three law-making institutions: the European Parliament and European Commission and the Council. The trilogue has not started yet because member states have not found a common position.
ENGA urges all parties to address the outstanding, unanswered problems on NGT regulation thoroughly: patenting; co-existence measures, the lack of scientific evidence for NGT1 classification and risk assessment.
3. EU Parliament votes to scrap safety rules on new GMOs in handout to biotech industry
However, new GMOs will still be subject to labelling and traceability, thanks to a strong campaign supported by hundreds of thousands of citizens
Corporate Europe Observatory, 7 Feb 2024
The EP voted in favour of a draft law that would scrap all safety assessments for most new GMOs. This would mean a degradation of environmental and health standards in the EU, as a handout to corporations like Bayer and Syngenta.
As proposed by rapporteur Polfjärd, Annex I, deciding what gets deregulated, had no scientific logic. The Parliament, however, failed to improve this.
MEPs also failed to ensure that organic and GM-free farmers will not bear the costs of NGT deregulation if this proposal goes ahead.
If the law goes ahead in this form, the EU would even be non-compliant with the UN Biosafety Protocol.
All of this means a real setback for a better food system as aimed for by the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Yet, Bayer & its lobby groups may not be entirely happy with today's outcome. According to the vote, new GMOs would still be subject to mandatory consumer labelling.
Notably, MEPs also voted for a document-based system for traceability. A safeguard clause was voted in that would allow an NGT to be withdrawn if safety issues appear after introduction.
MEPs agreed that the infamous herbicide-tolerant plants should not be allowed in the deregulated Category 1. However, new crops that produce their pesticide and can be harmful can still get deregulated.
Nina Holland, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, says:
"Most MEPs have voted to scrap any safety measures on new GMOs, which is a real setback for a better food system. This would only serve the interests of corporations like Bayer and Syngenta, who have pushed for this for many years. These corporations aim to squeeze out farmers further with expensive patented seeds.
"The few silver linings are that the EP voted in favour of mandatory consumer labelling of NGT products, a basic form of traceability and a safeguard clause for when safety issues arise. Labelling and traceability are key demands by GM-free farmers, consumers and environmental groups.”
The EP voted for an amendment about limiting patents on NGTs, but it is still legally shaky. This is because an amendment of the European Patent Convention, which is not an EU treaty, would be required.
The report, as amended, was finally approved with 307 MEPs in favour and 263 against, indicating perhaps a growing level of concern. And indeed, this is not the end of it. EU countries still have no agreement on the text, with many having serious concerns about the implications of patented GM seeds for farmers, for instance.
4. More misery for farmers as EU Parliament endorses draft law to deregulate GMOs
Greenpeace, 7 Feb 2024
The European Parliament (EP) has endorsed a controversial European Commission plan that exempts many new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from current safety rules, ignoring critical science, and farmer and consumer rights, warned Greenpeace.
The Commission plan would scrap most safety checks requirements for a new brand of genetically modified plants, produced with so-called new genomic techniques (NGTs).
Greenpeace GMO campaigner Eva Corral said: “Members of the European Parliament have failed in their duty to protect people’s health, the environment and the future of European farming. European farmers will pay a high price, becoming increasingly dependent on a few seed firms, and risk getting sued by the multinationals who own patented GMOs. With no credible proof that new GMOs can withstand the impacts of climate change, growing corporate control in the food system means farmers could find it harder to access and develop climate resilient, locally-adapted plants.”
The Commission plan would lead to more patents, extending to conventional breeding and plant traits already present in nature. As a result, farmers and breeders could lose autonomy and the freedom to grow what they want. Today, just four companies control over 60% of the seed market worldwide: Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina-Syngenta and BASF.
A legal analysis by Greenpeace shows that, if adopted as proposed by the Commission, the law could violate EU constitutional law, which guarantees a high level of protection for people’s health and the environment, as well as for farmer and consumer rights. The law could also breach the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety, a binding international treaty for the EU and its member states that regulates the circulation of GMOs across borders. The Cartagena Protocol gives countries the right to decide whether or not to allow imports of GMOs. By deregulating new GMOs, the EU would make this decision impossible for non-EU countries, as the movement of new GM plants across borders would no longer be subject to the procedures of notification and consent that, under the current rules, apply to GMOs before they are exported.
In an open letter in November 2023, more than 70 scientists and academics expressed their concerns about the attempt to rush through this proposal before European elections in June 2024, without sufficient public debate. Several polls and a 2022 petition show that EU citizens across several countries, including France and Germany, want new GMOs regulated and labelled.
Scientists have warned that science has been ignored in the legislative process and that new GMOs carry risks, which should be managed by risk assessment, labelling and traceability. The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) have also warned about the risks involved.
Once EU governments have agreed their stance on the Commission GMO plan, negotiations will start with the European Parliament.