Last thing we need is a raft of patented crops designed to prop up the industrial farming system that EU decision-makers should be working to dismantle – FoE Europe
Responding to the first discussions between EU agriculture ministers on the regulatory future of a new generation of GMOs, Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
“Farming ministers and the rest of the EU need to stop wasting time and resources trying to find loopholes to push new, untested GMOs onto our fields and plates without any safety protocols. The last thing we need is a raft of patented crops designed to prop up the industrial farming system that EU decision-makers should be working to dismantle. Instead of putting more money in the hands of the biotech industry, we need to urgently invest in small-scale farming and agroecology.”
European agriculture ministers discussed the future of a new generation of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). These key discussions are the lead-up to a decision on whether or not "new" GMOs should be subject to safety checks or labelling before being allowed on the EU market.
Opinion is divided between countries on the regulatory future of new GMOs:
* Belgium and Luxembourg were concerned about excluding GMOs from safety regulations.
* Denmark and the Netherlands backed exempting some new GMOs.
* The Irish agriculture minister called for long-term benefits and risks to be assessed, and stressed consumers’ needs to take well-informed decisions. Germany’s farming minister welcomed the study but underlined the need to maintain the precautionary principle. The French minister backed safety check exemptions, but also called to ensure that more herbicide-resistant crops cannot be grown.
A 2018 ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that new GMOs should not be excluded from EU safety and labelling rules and underlined that the potential risks posed by new GMOs, “might prove to be similar to those that result from the production and release of a GMO through transgenesis.”
Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Commission, Council, and Parliament to uphold the ECJ ruling. This would be the most efficient way to ensure that only safe crops can be grown within the EU, consumers maintain their right to take well-informed food decisions, and genuinely innovative, environmental-friendly food systems can be promoted.
 On the agenda of was a study released by the European Commission in April which suggests that there are "strong indications that the current 2001 GMO legislation is not fit for purpose for some NGTs and their products*", and proposes a new consultation process to rewrite the laws.
AGRIFISH Council minutes
Friends of the Earth Europe has been heavily critical of the Commission study, which is biased towards the biotech industry following its sustained campaign to win exemptions from safety regulations for new GMOs. The study makes unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of the new techniques based only on products in the early stages of research. Furthermore, the Commission did not follow its own guidelines in the preparation of the report.
European Commission: EC study on new genomic techniques:
What’s in the study? The study was written in-house by the biotechnology department of the Commission and is based on: 1) Member State inputs, 2) a stakeholder consultation, 3) an opinion of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, 4) an opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and 5) two reports of the Joint Research Centre.
Commissioned by the Council: At the end of 2019, Member States requested a study on practical questions of the implementation from the ruling. (Council Decision (EU) 2019/1904 on the study on new genomic techniques. The Council also requested from the EU Commission to inform about measures as a follow-up of the study or some policy options.
Report: Green light for new GMOs? Friends of the Earth Europe analysis of the European Commission’s stakeholder consultation: https://friendsoftheearth.eu/press-release/green-light-for-new-gmos
Our assessment is that the study is biased in a number of its conclusions:
* Non-industry stakeholders ignored: At crucial points, Member State and other stakeholder views have not been included in the conclusions of the European Commission study on new genomic techniques.
* Divergence with European Court of Justice: The health branch of the EU Commission concludes that the current GMO legislation is not fit for purpose. The ECJ ruling, however, found that the framework can be applied to products of new GM techniques developed since the EU Directive was adopted. The Court’s criteria are clear and applicable to new GMOs. The Court’s ruling is shows the framework is fit for purpose, including to cater forscientific and technical progress.
* Unsubstantiated sustainability claims: DG Sante concludes that GM crops engineered with new GM techniques can serve sustainability purposes and help to achieve objectives in the Farm to Fork Strategy, e.g. 50 percent pesticide reduction. However, there is practically no information in the study to back this up.
Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on agriculture and environment ministers to ensure that new GMOs can not be marketed without comprehensive safety checks, and to ensure labelling to give farmers and consumers the right to choose.
See also Corporate Europe Observatory’s work exposing lobby tactics to deregulate GMOs – Report: Derailing EU rules on GMOs https://corporateeurope.org/en/2021/03/derailing-eu-rules-new-gmos
Biotech industry lobbying: Biotech companies want less regulation for GMOs and have sought to portray new GMO techniques such as gene editing and CRISPR-Cas as no different from traditional plant breeding methods – even though the techniques involve editing plant DNA, and in spite of the European Court of Justice’s ruling affirming this. The aim of their campaign is to prevent new GMOs from being labelled, and ensuring they can be grown and imported without any safety checks.
 The Court ruling: in 2018 the European Court of Justice ruled that existing EU GMO safety law applies to the new generation of GMOs. The court said that the new GMOs should not be excluded from EU safety and labelling rules and underlined that the potential risks posed by new GMOs: “might prove to be similar to those that result from the production and release of a GMO through transgenesis.” Under the current law, the protection of human health and the environment states that attention must be given to controlling risks from the deliberate release of GMOs. (Ruling of the European Court of Justice, 25 July 2018, Case C-528/16 https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-07/cp180111en.pdf)
The ruling means that the new generation of GM crops and seeds should go through safety checks, an authorisation process, and be labelled before they can be placed on the market.
Source: Friends of the Earth Europe