Jeopardises agricultural alternatives to the dominant system
1. New GMOs: The European Parliament refuses to assess their health and environmental risks – Pollinis
2. The European Parliament agrees to accept untested new GMOs: How Slovak MEPs voted – Citizens' Initiative for a GMO-free Slovakia
3. The European Parliament would let in uncontrolled new GMOs! – Hungarian Association of Nature Conservationists
1. New GMOs: The European Parliament refuses to assess their health and environmental risks
Jeopardises agricultural alternatives to the dominant system
Pollinis, 7 Feb 2024
[Deepl English translation from the French original]
On Wednesday 7 February, the European Parliament adopted a draft regulation on plants obtained using new genomic techniques (NGT), which exempts the majority of these GMOs from any risk assessment and has no provisions to limit contamination of other crops. POLLINIS is calling on France to protect its agriculture and its citizens' right to choose GM-free food that respects farmers and living organisms, by rejecting the proposal in the Council of the European Union.
The European Parliament adopted the draft regulation on new GMOs, considering the vast majority of plants obtained from new genomic techniques (NGT) to be equivalent to conventional plants. While the draft is still being negotiated by the Member States within the Council of the European Union, this vote represents a further step towards the mass entry of these GMOs onto the European market without any assessment of the risks to biodiversity or human health posed by the majority of them.
"With this text, the majority of plants resulting from these new genomic techniques would be considered equivalent to plants resulting from conventional selection or 'natural' hybridisation. This principle, which has no scientific basis whatsoever, is both dangerous and destructive of freedom. It would make it possible to assert, without ever having verified it, that these new GMOs are without risk to health and the environment. With no measures to limit contamination, and no obligation to publish detection and identification methods, this regulation would undermine the existence of GMO-free agricultural alternatives that respect biodiversity and the environment. France must protect the fundamental rights of its citizens, the quality of its agriculture and its food sovereignty by refusing to adopt this regulation," says Charlotte Labauge, POLLINIS campaigner.
The regulation voted on today makes no provision for the vast majority of new GMOs, grouped together in a category 1 based on criteria that have no scientific basis according to the Anses and more recently the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz):
* No assessment of the health and environmental risks, despite the disturbing lack of studies and hindsight on these new techniques;
* No measures to limit contamination and protect non-GMO farming - particularly organic farming - and no obligation to publish detection and identification methods. Inevitable contamination will be rendered undetectable, and this regulation will weaken agricultural alternatives to the dominant system. In particular, it will prevent seed producers (especially farmers) from ensuring that their products are free from NGTs.
In addition, the regulation:
* Allows certain insecticide-producing plants to be considered as conventional plants, without excluding them from category 1: they could therefore be marketed without prior risk assessment;
* Makes it compulsory to label seeds and food products containing NGT plants. But in reality, without a system to prevent contamination, it will be virtually impossible to guarantee GMO-free crops and food.
* Opens the door to the use of new genomic techniques for micro-organisms, fungi and animals, which would pose a further threat to biodiversity and ecosystem balances.
POLLINIS urges the French government and the French President not to support this draft regulation during the negotiations in the Council of the European Union, on behalf of the 540,000 European citizens already involved alongside POLLINIS in this battle to save their right to GMO-free food and a GMO-free environment. The NGO is calling on citizens to mobilise en masse to assert their rights and make their voices heard.
POLLINIS urges the French Government and President not to support this draft regulation during the negotiations in the Council of the European Union, on behalf of the 540,000 European citizens already involved alongside POLLINIS in this battle to save their right to GMO-free food and a GMO-free environment. The NGO is calling on citizens to mobilise en masse to assert their rights and make their voices heard.
"Do we need to remind you that a very large number of farmers in France and Europe are already farming effectively without pesticides or GMOs? Despite the fact that the regulations and subsidies give them very little encouragement, their production is more beneficial for pollinators and the environment, as well as for the farmers themselves. It is towards this type of farming that it is essential to direct public agricultural policies and subsidies today. And we must not encourage a technological headlong rush likely to accelerate the collapse of biodiversity, and the definitive takeover of food and living organisms by multinationals", warns Nicolas Laarman, General Delegate of the NGO POLLINIS.
2. The European Parliament agrees to accept untested new GMOs: How Slovak MEPs voted
Citizens' Initiative for a GMO-free Slovakia (www.slovenskobezgmo.org), 8 Feb 2024
[Deepl English translation from Slovak original]
After the vote in the plenary of the European Parliament (EP) on the European Commission's proposal to relax the rules for new GMOs on 7.2.2024, it is clear that the majority of MEPs are going along with the GMO industry and turning their backs on the citizens. They have voted to deregulate new GMOs, agreeing to allow untested GMO products to enter the EU market (vote result page 158). Yet there is no evidence of their reliability, functionality and safety for health and the environment. In this light, the outcome of the vote is striking and incomprehensible. Among other things, the European Parliament has succumbed to cheap promises about the miraculous, safe and faultless nature of new GMOs produced by new genomic techniques (NGT).
The result of the vote
The vote was inconclusive, with 307 MEPs in favour, 263 against and 41 abstentions. If only Slovak MEPs had voted, the proposal to deregulate new GMOs would not have passed. Nevertheless, there were black sheep who voted in favour of deregulation, namely Eugen Jurzyca and Ivan Štefanec. Also worthy of great attention are Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, Peter Pollák and Vladimír Bilčík, who incomprehensibly abstained from voting on such an absurd proposal. In doing so, Peter Pollák, for example, allegedly claims that: "There are many unexplored risks, there is a lack of scientific facts about the impact on human health and the health of the animals that people will consume." It is therefore remarkable why they abstained, given that it is precisely the risk and safety assessments that are being abolished by the approved proposal.
Is there any good news?
Of the many amendments, which also led to contradictory votes among MEPs, those allowing traceability, withdrawal from the market and labelling of products of new GMOs produced using NGT were also agreed. While this does not play into the hands of the GMO industry, the deregulation proposal should have been rejected in its entirety.
Next up is the EU Council of Ministers for Agriculture, which has still not approved its proposal for deregulation, thanks also to Slovakia's refusal. A consensus must be found between the Council and the EP. The Council is likely to start negotiations from scratch, which may, at best, mean that negotiations on the proposal between the Council and the EP will not start until after the European elections, thus buying more time. Moreover, in the second half of 2024, Hungary, which has so far rejected deregulation, will take over the Council Presidency.
The risk remains
"The new GMOs are not at all similar to conventionally bred plants, as is unscientifically claimed in the proposal. Yet the deregulation proposal radically abolishes the Category 1 risk assessments for new GMOs, which is the focus of the GMO industry. We know that the risk profile of NGTs has not been investigated, with many studies in peer-reviewed journals showing unintended mutations, even with the insertion of completely foreign DNA, even if this was not intended. Such mutations can confer risk characteristics to crops. Risks must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Releasing new GMOs without risk assessment into the environment, onto the fields and onto our plates in such an uncertain situation borders on madness. At the same time, the current EU legislation on GMOs is fully suitable also for new GMOs, deregulation must be rejected" says Ing. Peter Sudovský from the civil initiative Slovakia without GMO.
Coexistence with non-GMO growers and GMO contamination are not addressed by the proposal at all, which means that they will not be avoided despite the approved labelling. Moreover, Member States will lose the possibility of banning their cultivation.
The issue of patents, which may bring benefits to transnational GMO producers, remains a questionable one.
In addition, the proposal opens the door to the use of NGT for micro-organisms, fungi and animals.
Opposition and criticism
In the context of the vote in the EP, a letter from Slovak organisations calling on MEPs to reject deregulation has been sent to MEPs with more necessary and clear information.
The pressure from European society has been strong. Many surveys from across the EU, petitions, civic activities prove that the majority of EU citizens do not want unlabelled and untested GMOs. In Slovakia, a citizens' petition has been handed in, and more than 50 Slovak organisations and companies have also rejected the deregulation of new GMOs.
In an open letter dated November 2023, more than 70 scientists and academics expressed their concerns. Scientists also warned that science has been ignored in the legislative process, new GMOs carry risks, must have risk assessments, labelling and traceability. The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the French National Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Safety (ANSES) have also criticised the arbitrary deregulation proposal and warned of the possible risks.
3. The European Parliament would let in uncontrolled new GMOs!
Hungarian Association of Nature Conservationists, 7 Feb 2024
[Deepl English translation from the Hungarian original]
The European Parliament today voted narrowly in favour of the Commission's proposal for a broad deregulation of the new generation of genetically modified organisms. A majority of MEPs voted to exempt new GMOs from food and environmental safety controls and liability procedures, putting nature at risk by releasing untested new GMOs.
The European Parliament backed a legislative proposal that would allow giant companies to market new GMOs without testing the effects on human health and the environment. The proposal also exempts companies selling new GMOs and the farmers who grow them from liability in the event of any damage.
"Have the majority of MEPs completely forgotten that it is their duty to protect the rights of their constituents, not to keep on giving gifts to industry and their lobbyists?" asked Mute Schimpf, Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.
"The Parliament's decision to approve the broad deregulation of new GMOs is another serious blow for farmers and the environment across Europe, following the recent withdrawal of a regulation aimed at reducing pesticide use," added Róbert Fidich, Programme Manager of the Hungarian Association of Nature Conservationists.
Although the Parliament is trying to limit the patenting of new GMOs, the proposal still exposes farmers and breeders to patent infringement lawsuits from major agribusiness companies such as Corteva and Bayer.
It is a small consolation that the Parliament has partially listened to the concerns of farmers and consumers and has complemented the Commission's proposal by introducing a new GMO label and transparency requirements throughout the food chain.
"It is a joy in the void that the MEPs present in Hungary - in line with a decade and a half of political consensus in Hungary on GMOs - did not vote in favour of the proposal to deregulate new GMOs. Unfortunately, this was not enough for the European Parliament to vote against the deregulation of new GMOs," added Róbert Fidrich.
Today's decision by the European Parliament does not put an end to the debate on the Commission's proposal. The EU Council, the Parliament and the Commission will negotiate on the proposal, giving a slim chance for GMO-free Member States like Hungary to assert their interests.