GMO cultivation opt-outs, questions about EU-funded animal feeding trials with GMOs, and the need for GMO bans to protect against contamination
1. GMO (In)digest 17 – the Greens
2. Organic farmers call for GMO bans – IFOAM
1. GMO (In)digest 17
The Greens in the European Parliament, 31 March 2015
[excerpts only reprinted below]
New Directive on GMO will enter into force in April
See (GMO (In)digest 16)
Following its formal adoption at Competitiveness Council on March 2, and final signature at the EP plenary session on March 11, the Directive (EU) 2015/412 of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their territory has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union on March 13. It will enter into force 20 days later, at the beginning of April. Member States have 6 months for transposition in national laws.
The Greens/EFA group has been very critical of the proposal and voted against it, as it
suspects that this new scheme will pave the path for GMOs in the EU, without addressing the flawed authorisation process. Green MEP Bart Staes said, "Despite a majority of EU member states and citizens being consistently opposed to GMOs, the real purpose of this new scheme is to make it easier to wave through EU authorisations of GM crops. Countries opposed to GMOs are given the carrot of being able to opt-out of these authorisations but the scheme approved today fails to give them a legally-watertight basis for doing so. This is a false solution."
The fight will continue at EU level, following Juncker's commitment to improve the authorisation process by making it more democratic, as specified in the mission letter sent to the new SANTE Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis and in the Commission Work Program for 2015.
The Greens/EFA group will also be heavily involved at national level to encourage national governments to ensure they use the opportunities of this new text to effectively ban GMO crops on their territory. A first test case on the governments' willingness to act will be when Pioneer GMO maize 1507 could be formally authorized, and when the renewal of the authorization for Monsanto MON810 maize could be granted.
Revision of the EU GMO authorisation process
Commissioner Andriukaitis confirmed during an exchange of views with the ENVI Committee of the EP on 26 March that the Commission will make a proposal to revise the GMO EU authorisation process at the end of April, as requested by President Juncker in his mission letter. However, he indicated that the revision would only deal with GMO imports and use as food or feed. This is simply astonishing, as the request from President Juncker has been motivated by the authorisation of GMO maize 1507 for cultivation, which may be granted despite the opposition of a large majority of Member States [MS]. In its Work Program for 2015, the Commission says that it “will review the decision-making process for the authorisation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in order to address the concerns of citizens and Member States as regards the Commission's current legal obligation to approve the authorisation of GMOs in cases where a clear majority of Member States opposes the proposal.”
This is exactly what happened with the last authorisation for cultivation, and this concerns cultivation where citizens and MS have more at stake. The recent GMO Trojan horse opt-out directive is addressing grounds for MS’ bans, but not the authorisation process itself, this also applies to imports and needs to be reviewed to be made more democratic. One wonders whether this betrayal of the objectives claimed by Mr. Juncker comes from the Commission services, the Commissioner or the President of the Commission himself. EU citizens and the EP [European Parliament] will naturally feel they have been cheated by the Commission if it narrows the review to imports and food and feed, and forgets about cultivation completely.
GMO maize 1507 authorisation for cultivation on hold again
See (GMO (In)digest 13)
Although concerns were high that the Commission would rush the authorisation for the cultivation of GMO maize 1507 from Pioneer after concluding the so-called opt-out directive, a new scientific study has caused delays. Indeed, the most comprehensive study on maize pollen dispersion in the environment (10 years on 216 sites in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium) has indicated that distances for maize pollen deposition were a lot higher than previously thought, up to 4.45 km. Following this study, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has indicated that it will review its recommendations for risk management measures, which it hopes to publish at the end of May. Up to now, the EFSA recommended safety distances of only 20-30 m! It would be rather unreasonable for the Commission to authorise this controversial GMO crop now that new concerns have arisen regarding the distances which GMO pollen can fly and interact with the environment, and while the authorisation process is under review. In a common letter to Commissioner Andriukaitis, Friends of the Earth Europe and Testbiotech petition, “On the basis of this research it is therefore clear that GM maize cannot be grown in the EU without causing widespread contamination or threatening endangered species. We therefore urge you to reject the authorisation of 1507 and Bt11 maize, and halt the cultivation of MON810 in order to take the findings of the research fully into consideration.”
GMO-Free regions 2015 conference: Time to register
All of the issues above (and many more) will be discussed during the 10th GMO-Free regions conference in Berlin, from 6 to 8 May 2015. Governments, Business and Civil Society gather in Berlin from 6 to 8 May 2015 for the GMO-free regions conference: Future Opportunities and Challenges. It is the first time that the 3 pillars of a GMO-FREE EUROPE – regional governments, businesses and NGOs with scientists – organize such a conference jointly.
Preparation for this big event, organized by the European GMO-free Regions Network, Danube Soya Association and the NGO network of GMO-free regions is well underway and registrations are open. All interested in building a GMO-free Europe can register at: http://www.gmo-free-europe.org/register.html.
EFSA against Bulgarian ban on MON810
On 16 December 2015, EFSA published its statement on the Bulgarian ban on the cultivation of GMO maize MON810. As usual, the authority did not want its previous assessments on the safety of this GMO maize to be questioned. It concluded that neither the arguments put forward by Bulgaria nor the supporting documentation revealed new scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment that would support the adoption of a ban on the cultivation of maize MON 810. In the absence of new relevant scientific evidence, EFSA concludes that its previous risk assessment conclusions and risk management recommendations on maize MON 810 and those of its GMO Panel remain valid and applicable.
Furthermore, EFSA adds that the quality of the data presented by Bulgaria was insufficient, and strongly recommends Member States who invoke safeguard clauses or emergency measures to supply relevant new scientific data of a quality which can be subjected to detailed scientific scrutiny.
There are still nine EU countries that have asked for a ban on the cultivation of MON810 and in every case which EFSA have looked at, most recently France, it concluded there was nothing that would change its opinion. No doubt that EFSA will give a positive opinion on the renewal of the authorisation that it is processing now!
Questions from Green MEP Jose Bove to the Commission on new breeding techniques (NBT) regulations
As there are a lot of questions related to new breeding technologies and their regulations as GMOs, MEP Bove expressed concerns that crops from new breeding technologies may be exempt from the risk assessment and authorisation process of GMOs. On February 27, he puts the following questions for written answer to the Commission:
1. Can the Commission confirm that the GMOs resulting from new genetic engineering techniques are covered by Directive 2001/18/EC?
2. Does it intend to exclude some of these techniques from the scope of Directive 2001/18/EC, and if so, why?
3. Will it continue to regulate both the techniques and the resulting products, in accordance with the European legislation in force?
4. Does it plan to propose regulating only the products obtained, irrespective of the technique used?
Questions from Green MEPs Molly Scott Cato, Bart Staes and Martin Hausling to the Commission on research projects GRACE and G-TwYST
Given the concerns expressed by the German NGO Testbiotech on the long term studies on health impacts of GMOs (GRACE and GM-TwYST) that the Commission decided to undertake after the controversial 2 year study from Seralini et al., Green MEPs Molly Scott Cato, Bart Staes and Martin Hausling put the following questions for written answer to the Commission:
1. Was any agreement signed between the GRACE researchers and Monsanto – the developer of MON810 maize – and, if so, when will the Commission publish it?
2. When will the results of the 1-year rat-feeding trial, undertaken with MON810 maize under the GRACE project, be published in a peer-reviewed journal?
3. Has any agreement been signed, or will one be signed, between GM-proprietary companies and researchers on the EU-funded G-TwYST 2-year animal-feeding trial, and, if so, when will the Commission publish it?
2. Organic farmers call for GMO bans
IFOAM, 1 April 2015
As the Directive granting Member States the right to ban GMO cultivation on their territory enters into force tomorrow, a new report from IFOAM EU provides an overview of existing national “coexistence” measures aimed at preventing contamination by GMOs.
Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Policy Manager, said, “Our legal analysis shows that banning GMOs is the most effective way to prevent GMO contamination and to avoid extra costs for the food industry, public authorities and the organic sector. So-called 'coexistence' measures are costly, difficult to design and implement and are not sufficient for the prevention of contamination. The organic food and farming sector therefore calls on all Member States to ban all GMO cultivation on their territories.”
The new IFOAM EU report shows that the Member States with the most developed legal “coexistence” measures have, in most cases, eventually chosen to ban GMO cultivation. On the other hand, measures are clearly insufficient or simply non-existent in many countries.
Alejandro Gill, IFOAM EU Policy Coordinator continued, “The Spanish example clearly shows that GMO cultivation threatens the viability of organic production for farmers in the territories where they are cultivated. It is highly regrettable that, in the case of a Member State refusing to ban GMO cultivation, the new Directive does not require Member States to put contamination prevention measures in place, nor to develop an effective liability regime to compensate victims of contamination.”
“Organic is one of the only growing food sectors in the EU and the development of organic should not be jeopardized with irresponsible EU authorisations for GMOs that will only harm European agriculture,” concluded Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Policy Manager. “Most Member States are against the authorisation of GMOs for cultivation in Europe and, since GMOs can travel across national boundaries, even farmers in Member States that enact bans are not entirely protected from contamination. Above all, the Commission cannot shift its responsibility as a risk manager to Member States forever. Therefore, the Commission must not use the Directive as an excuse to approve new GM crops at EU level, and must fulfil its promises to make the GMO authorisation procedure for cultivation and imports more democratic and to significantly improve the EU risk assessment."
In its new report Preventing GMO contamination: An overview of national "coexistence" measures in the EU, IFOAM EU examines the measures designed by Member States to mitigate contamination, e.g. mandatory notification, training, isolation distances and liability systems.
Directive: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:L:2015:068:TOC (link is external)
Preventing GMO contamination: An overview of national ‘coexistence’ measures in the EU: http://www.ifoam-eu.org/sites/default/files/ifoameu_policy_gmos_dossier_201412.pdf
For more information please contact:
Or visit www.ifoam-eu.org
IFOAM EU represents more than 160 member organizations in the EU-28, the EU accession countries and EFTA. Member organizations span the entire organic food chain and beyond: from farmers and processors organisations, retailers, certifiers, consultants, traders and researchers to environmental and consumer advocacy bodies.