Fighting Dalli's GMO initiative
Green groups prepare to fight John Dalli's GMO initiative
Ivan Camilleri, Brussels
Times of Malta, 12 July 2010
All eyes will be on John Dalli this week as he officially presents new proposals to facilitate the introduction of more genetically modified (GM) crops into the EU.
Shortly after assuming his role as European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Mr Dalli walked into a storm by lifting a 13-year ban on the cultivation of a GM potato, called Amflora, to be used for starch by industry. His decision was met with resistance by many member states and was harshly criticised by the anti-GM lobby, particularly environmental lobby groups.
This was just the beginning, according to various EU-wide NGOs who are promising a much harsher battle against Mr Dalli's new initiative.
According to unofficial versions of the proposal, the Commission will present a plan to overhaul existing regulations so that individual countries would be allowed to give socio-economic or cultural reasons for banning cultivation of GM crops.
Mr Dalli will be proposing that member states opposed to GM crops should be free to ban them from cultivation on non-scientific grounds. This offer will be made in the hope that such states, including Malta, will end their tactic of stalling the approval process for each submission to grow GM crops in the EU.
Under the proposal, the existing Europe-wide process for approving GM crops will carry on as it is, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) having the final say on whether crops are harmless enough to human health and the environment to be safely grown anywhere in Europe.
Opponents of GM crops want to make sure Mr Dalli's proposals, which will have to be approved by member states, are stopped.
"Governments should study the fine print because Mr Dalli's proposal is not worth the paper it is written on," Jorgo Riss from the EU unit of Greenpeace told The Times.
"This is bald deceit aimed at satisfying the multi-billion industry behind GM technology. Governments that understand the risk of GM crops are being offered a deal too good to be true. In return for what looks like a legal right to ban GM crops at national and local level, they will be expected to drop any health and environmental concerns they have at EU level and authorise new crops without argument," Mr Riss said.
The concerns on Mr Dalli's latest proposals have also been voiced in Malta, before the official presentation scheduled for Wednesday.
Friends of the Earth (Malta) described his plan as an "empty and potentially dangerous deal" and called on the government to vote against this proposal when the time comes.
Despite this resistance, Mr Dalli is determined to soldier on. "We are doing what we promised to do," he said during a visit to the port of Antwerp.
Spain, the main producer of Monsanto's transgenic MON 810 maize in the EU, like France a pro-GM member state, also blasted what it sees as a re-nationalisation of authorisations.
However, Mr Dalli rejected that interpretation.
"I don't think this is a question of nationalisation. It's a question of different circumstances in different countries, of size or of specific landscapes," he said.
"It will be for the states to decide whether or not to authorise the planting of GMOs on their territory once an authorisation decision has been taken at European level.