Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru 12th June 2010
It looks as if NGOs are not the only ones who are deeply suspicious about the EC's proposals for an overhaul of the GM approval system. The Commission's press machine has flagged up the proposed changes as beneficial for Europe in that member states will henceforth be able to decide for themselves whether or not to ban GM crops, with or without scientific justification. But as we have pointed out (1), the Commission's real intention is to appease the Americans and the WTO by speeding up the assessment and approvals system, concentrating power within EFSA, and bringing in "implementing measures" permitting fast- track approvals even for varieties that have no safety studies attached to them. They have laid the way already, by bringing Draft Implementing Regulations before the WTO (2) which contain many subtle changes to the Guidelines currently used for the assessment and approval of GM crop applications.
Now it looks as if France and Spain are leading the way in pointing out what is really going on -- and they have referred back to the decisions made by the Environment Council in December 2008, which demanded LESS power for EFSA, not more. It will be interesting to see whether the EC proposals, being promoted heavily by new Commissioner John Dalli and welcomed by the GM industry, will get anywhere near adoption. I suspect that many more states will raise their concerns about the move towards fast-track approvals in the face of mounting evidence of harm associated with GM crops and foods -- and because what the Commission is proposing will cause total chaos in the EU's internal market for crops and foods. In the absence of Europe-wide legislation concerning contamination, liability and labelling, regulation of GM crops will be a nightmare, and the whole of the food supply (and the seed market) will be contaminated within a few years -- which is exactly what the Americans, the WTO and the GM industry want.
And that is exactly what the people of Europe have said, over and again, that they DO NOT WANT. Commissioner Dalli, are you listening?
(1) WARNING OVER "HIDDEN AGENDA" IN OVERHAUL OF GM APPROVALS SYSTEM -- Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru 4th June 2010 http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice04bJunel2010.htm
Charlie Dunmore Reuters, 11 June 2010 http://www.forexpros.com/news/forex-news/update-1-eu-governments-wary-of-gm-crop-overhaul-plans-142401
* France insists on a review of EU GM assessment criteria * Opposes GM cultivation proposal before review, says Borloo * Spain opposed to Commission's proposals, says Espinosa
LUXEMBOURG - France said on Friday it would not support draft proposals to allow European Union governments to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops before a complete review of the bloc's GM approval system.
The EU's executive, the European Commission, argues that giving member states the option of banning GM cultivation will remove their current opposition to approving new varieties, and plans in July to table proposals seen by Reuters.
But France's Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the proposals did not address the demand for a complete review of the bloc's assessment system for GM crops, made by all 27 EU nations in December 2008.
"There is no way we would swap subsidiarity for the absolute need for a tightening of the assessment criteria," Borloo told journalists before a ministers' meeting in Luxembourg to discuss the EU's GM approval system.
"No new authorisations can be approved in the current circumstances," he added.
While France did not rule out support for the Commission's plan if its conditions were met, Spain's Agriculture Minister made it clear that she opposed the proposals.
"Moving to authorisations by each country could take us to the beginning of re-nationalisation, something we have never supported in Spain," Elena Espinosa said before the meeting.
Spain's opposition comes despite the fact that it currently grows more GM crops than any other EU nation.
EU governments' demand for a review of the GM assessment system in 2008 was sparked by concerns that the bloc's scientific advisory body, the European Food Safety Agency (Efsa), was ill-equipped for the job.
A key complaint was that Efsa was too reliant on data provided by biotech multinationals including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta for its assessments, and lacked the expertise required to carry out its own analyses.
But the Commission has yet to respond to the demand, clearly hoping that its cultivation proposals would be enough to ease member states' fears.
If approved, the plan could see a sharp growth in commercial cultivation of GM crops in countries already growing them, such as Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
Existing GM bans in countries including France, Italy and Austria would also be confirmed under the plans, and other countries would be free to introduce new bans at any time.
But a Belgian EU diplomat was among those who warned that the plan could fragment the EU's cherished internal market, and leave the bloc open to challenges in the World Trade Organisation by countries such as the United States, who have complained that the EU's GM policies are unscientific.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have strongly criticised the proposals, saying they confirm the Commission's determination to push GM crops onto an unwilling European public.
(Additional reporting by Julien Toyer in Luxembourg and Martin Roberts in Madrid; Editing by Keiron Henderson)
Corrine Lepage, former Environment Minister (1995-1997) and Member of the European Parliament
"THEY ARE TURNING THEIR BACK ON THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE"
Remarks compiled by Hervé Morin Le Monde [France], 10 June 2010:
The lawyer Corrine Lepage, former Environment Minister (1995-1997), Member of the European Parliament, is also a founding member of the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN).
How do you feel about the European Commission’s new proposals for the cultivation of GMOs?
Of course I can only be delighted that we recognise the [Member] States’ right to not cultivate GMOs. But it’s a case of drawing consequences from what is the de facto reality: the Barroso Commission has been trying for years to take legal action against countries which don’t want GMOs. Without success, since there is no majority against those who adopt this policy.
What worries me much more is that these proposals form the outline of an unequivocal step away from research on the middle- and long-term effects of GMOs. The seed companies have succeeded in stopping systematic 90-day feeding trials on rats. We are turning our backs on the Precautionary Principle.
While the issue has now been on the table for fifteen years, its is mind-boggling that there has so far been no public research on the health risks of GMOs - apart from one Austrian study which was shot down in flames. The national and European food safety authorities thus only provide public opinions on secret studies made by the seed companies.
Didn’t the Union demand an improvement in the risk assessments, under the French presidency?
The European Food Safety was supposed to reform its procedures, which has not been done. We were supposed to have studies on the benefits and problems – to see if "statistically significant" effects are also "pathologically significant". This is the debate that has been refused. They are attempting to delude the European people, as they won’t carry out any in-depth study on GMOs until they have been forced into massive consumption.
What is the French position?
France is in a difficult position, since CRIIGEN [the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering] obtained the partial cancellation of a decreee to transpose a[n EC] Directive which defined, amongs other things, the rules for approval of GMOs. The Council of State [the French national government body that provides the executive branch with legal advice and acts as the administrative court of last resort] has given France a 30 June deadline to vote a new law. The Government can be attacked for failure to transpose a Directive. I wonder on what grounds the recently announced field trial of GM grapevines could be allowed...
BRUSSELS WANTS MORE FLEXIBLE CONDITIONS FOR GROWING GMOS
Le Monde with Agence France Presse, 4 June 2010:
The European Commission wants to unblock the approvals for cultivation of GM crops in the European Union, and, to this end, is proposing to let governments have the freedom to ban them on their territories. The Commissioner for Health, John Dalli, who is in charge of this sensitive dossier,. announced this solution to get out of the impasse and hopes to quickly finalise his proposal so as to give him legal security, according to a source close to the dossier on Friday 4 June.
He intends to present it on 13 July, but has not excluded doing so on the meeting of the Commission planned for 6 July. He has agreed to consult all the stakeholders to get the biggest consensus. The Greenpeace organisation which is very critical of the "indigestible GMO menu concocted by apprentice cook José Manuel Barroso [President of the European Commission", has welcomed "the right of the States and regions to declare themselves GMO-free".
"But we refuse to let the Commission use this proposal to fast-track approvals for cultivation", said one of its campaigners, Marco Contiero. There are three applications on the Commissioner’s desk for the BT 11 maizes from the Swiss group Syngenta, BT 1507 from the American group Pioneer, and MON 910 from the American group Monsanto, for its re-authorisation.
"MONSANTO’S SEEDS ARE NOT MADE FOR THE EU"
Mr. Dalli told his interlocutors there are no immediate plans for new GM cultivation approvals. The Commissioner got burned by the "upheavals" caused by the surprise approval given last March for the German group BASF’s genetically modified Amflora potato. The bans could cover a country’s entire territory, or only regions, and could apply to one or more GMOs, They would not need to be a approved by the Commission, as has been the case up to now.
A first debate is expected during the meeting of the Environment Ministers on 10 and 11 June in Luxemburg, even before these proposals are made official. Many countries are worried about the contamination of conventional or organic crops via dispersal of GM seeds, and consider that the advice of scientists regarding the approvals that is taken into account by Brussels does not address this aspect.
"There has to be an expertise which people can trust, and GMOs adapted to the specific needs of the EU", explained a European diplomat, emphasizing that "Monsanto’s seeds are not made for the EU. They require vast areas witout co-existence problems or small field structures".
"I DON’T SEE THE BENEFIT FOR SOCIETY"
Seven countries, including France and Germany, have banned the cultivation of MON 810 because of the risk of contaminating conventional and organic crops in the area. But the governments don’t want to close the door on GMOs. "Maybe one day they could provide solutions by reducing the use of [irrigation] water and chemical inputs", said the Secretary of State for the Environment, Chantal Jouanno, in early March. "For the moment, I can clearly see the financial benefits, but not the benefit for society", she added.
GMO cultivation is declining in Europe, a victim of rejection by public opinon and of its nefarious impacts on the environment. The area cultivated with MON 810 went down from 106,737 hectares in 2008 to 94,749 ha in 2009. Only six countries grow this genetically modified maize: Spain (76,000 hectares compared to 79,000 ha in 2008), Portugal (5,000 ha compared to 4,000 ha in 2008), Czech Republic (6,480 ha compared to 8,000 ha), Romania (3,000 ha compared 6,000 ha), Poland (3,000 ha) and Slovakia (875 ha compared to 1,900 ha).