Press Notice 23rd February 2010
Scientists from across Europe have today made a formal complaint to the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament on the grounds that the Commission has illegally and unilaterally introduced policy changes in the field of GM crops and food.
By law, the Commission is allowed to bring in "implementing regulations" and rules which will assist applicants and regulators in the interpretation of EU policy and in preparing and processing applications for GM consents (1). Specifically, Directive 2001/18 and Regulation 1829/2003 allow for "implementing regulations" to follow, and a number of these have already been brought in and acted upon. However, the Commission, as the EU's executive arm, has no right to make policy; like all executives, it is supposed to advise and inform, and bring forward measures for consideration by the democratically elected body (the European Parliament) which will approve them or not, as the case may be.
For some years there has been increasing tension in the matter of GM crops and foods, with the people of Europe expressing their ongoing distaste for them, with the Environment Council (2) expressing extreme dissatisfaction about the operation of EFSA (the body charged with assessing the safety of GM crops and foods, and processing GM applications), and with the Commission repeatedly giving consents for GM varieties to be commercialised or used in food and animal feed against the wishes of the majority of European governments. The Commission is also under intense pressure from the biotechnology multinationals (including Monsanto and Syngenta) and from the US government and the WTO to speed up the regulatory process and to open the door to a widespread adoption of GM technology in the European farming industry.
Against this background the Commission has been seeking for some years to "water down" the regulatory process and to appease the WTO and the USA, following the high-profile trade dispute on GM issues which took place some years ago. This has caused fury in many national governments, and among NGOs and consumer groups, who have never been convinced that GM crops and foods are (a) safe, and (b) actually wanted by anybody.
About a week ago a group of scientists noticed that a new Draft "Commission Regulation" had appeared not on any relevant European web- site, but on the WTO web site (3). Formally, it was "notified" to the WTO for a period of consultation lasting from 12th January 2010 to 13th March 2010, with the declared intention that it would be adopted in May 2010 and brought into force in June 2010. The document, 66 pages long, had been put together by the Commission and EFSA, with the help of an "expert panel" including representatives from the EU member states. There has been no involvement by the Environment Council or the European Parliament, and the Draft Regulation has not been shown to the "competent authorities" who are responsible for receiving GM applications and implementing GM policy on the ground. There has been no "notification" of this Draft Regulation anywhere in Europe, and no process for comments to be received and considered. The drafting process was controlled by EFSA, and "sold" to national representatives on the drafting "expert panel" on the grounds that the new rules would increase consumer safety and ensure stricter control of GMOs. In fact, the Draft regulations, if adopted, will do precisely the opposite.
Commenting on this situation, Dr Brian John said: "We think this is the most secretive, opportunistic and cynical attempt which the Commission has ever made to force GM crops into our fields and to thrust GM foods down our throats, even though the people of Europe have said over and again that they have no taste for them. We have now looked at the Draft Regulation, and it is clear to us that the Commission has far exceeded its powers by seeking to introduce -- quite illegally -- a raft of new GM policies (3) when its powers are in fact limited in the GMO field to the introduction of implementation rules. On this basis, we have made a formal protest to the Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the grounds that the Commission has broken the law. We have demanded that these Draft Regulations be stopped in their tracks and -- in view of their great importance -- brought under proper scrutiny by the Parliament with a period of open and democratic consultation."
Contact: Dr Brian John GM-Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470
(1) The Commission issues Regulations relating to "detailed rules for implementation." The Parliament and Council together issue Regulations on matters of policy, risk, authorisation procedures and so forth. For example: Regulation (EC) No 641/2004 of the Commission of 6 April 2004 on detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the application for the authorisation of new genetically modified food and feed, the notification of existing products and adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of genetically modified material which has benefited from a favourable risk evaluation [Official Journal L 102, 7.4.2004]. The new Draft Regulation should be listed here, but is not: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/agriculture/food/l21154_en.htm#AMENDINGACT
(2) EU MINISTERS AGREE TO MUCH TIGHTER GM CONTROLS ** More devolution of decision-making ** Curtailment of EFSA powers http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice05Dec2008.htm
(3) Draft Commission Regulation on implementing rules concerning applications for authorisation of genetically modified food and feed in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council and amending Regulations No (EC) 641/2004 and (EC) No 1981/2006 (66 pages, in English). E-mail: email@example.com The text is available on the EU-TBT Website : http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/tbt/ And can also be downloaded here: http://members.wto.org/crnattachments/2010/tbt/eec/10_0030_00_e.pdf It is interesting -- and disturbing -- that the pdf of the whole Draft Regulation is only available via the Europa/Enterprise/Technical Barriers to Trade website, and is NOT available on EU sites relating to health, environment, food safety etc.