OPEN LETTER 6th July 2010
Commissioner John Dalli
Dear Commissioner Dalli,
Commission proposals for national GM bans are deeply flawed
We have been examining the draft documents which you are bringing forward this month for consideration by member states and the Parliament, for the reform of the GM assessment / approvals process. We wish to protest in the strongest possible terms about five EC& documents that have come from DG SANCO:
1. The Draft Implementing Regulation which you brought to the attention of the WTO in January 2010, and about which we have already complained on the grounds that it is a direct attempt by the EC to "loosen up" the assessment / authorisation procedure and to clear the way for fast-track approvals.
2. Commission RECOMMENDATION of ?? July 2010 on Guidelines for the development of national cultivation measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional and organic crops.
3. EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM. Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation modifying Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to prohibit, restrict or impede the cultivation of GMOs in their territory (Doc. SANCO/ /2010)
4. Draft COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION on the freedom for Member States to decide on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
5. Proposal for a REGULATION (EU) No …/... OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of […] relating to the above proposals.
There are a number of things in these documents that we applaud. Nonetheless, we find many of the contents of the documents deeply disturbing, since the draft changes are promoted (over and again) as meeting the aspirations of member states and regions to remain GM-free and therefore as introducing a degree of self-determination in those countries where, for a number of reasons, GM crops and foods are particularly unpopular. However, a close reading of the documents reveals that national and regional GMO "opt-outs" are only permissible on NON-SCIENTIFIC grounds, ie "on grounds other than those already addressed by the harmonised set of EU rules." Member states will be unable to invoke health, safety and environmental concerns in support of GMO bans, and are left with extremely vague justifications on ethical, religious, economic or social grounds which will be almost impossible to support in a court of law. Thus your proposals are both deceitful and deeply flawed.
There is one particularly revealing section in the documents. Under 2.3.1 B of the Explanatory Memorandum, we find these words:
" ........ unless the existing EU legal framework is amended, Member States authorisations of GMO cultivation will continue taking place at a slow pace and with poor support by the Member States. The proceeding of existing applications would most likely be slower than the pace of the submission of new applications. This would create an ever-inflated bottleneck causing increasing managerial and institutional hurdles. At the same time more safeguard measures with probably unfounded scientific basis against the newly authorized products would be most likely adopted. This would place extra institutional burdens on the Commission, as well as on EFSA which would be asked to adopt further opinions on each national measure.
Moreover, in absence of an amendment of EU legislation, the affected stakeholders (e.g. biotechnology companies, GMO farmers, producers and exporters of GM seeds to EU, livestock breeders depending on GM feed, feed processors) might see a gradual harm to their interests. This could cause further court procedures against the Commission or/and the Council with regards to the implementation of GMO legislation."
There is a deep assumption running through these words that national safeguard measures against newly authorized products are a great inconvenience. Further, you suggest that such measures will in the future have a "probably unfounded scientific basis." That, if we may say so, is a deeply arrogant thing to say, and it shows scant respect for the hundreds of independent scientists and members of many national regulatory committees who have grave reservations about the "opinions" of EFSA and about the competence of that organization. We do not accept that EFSA always gets it right, and indeed we have pointed out, over and again, that EFSA has accepted fraudulent data in applicants' dossiers at face value, leading to grave risks to public health.
We have pointed out in the past, and we now warn again, that if EFSA
is given the power of being effectively the sole arbiter of all of the
GM science in the approvals process, that will be against the wishes of the Environment Council (4 December 2008) and against the wishes of member states and the Parliament. EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME, YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES IN THE COMMISSION REFUSE TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE SCIENCE OF GM IS STILL HEAVILY DISPUTED, AND THAT MANY SCIENTISTS ARE DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CONSUMPTION OF GM FOODS THAT SHOW UP TIME AND AGAIN IN PEER-REVIEWED STUDIES.
The measures now proposed are clearly all about "reducing institutional burdens" and speeding up the assessment and approvals process. You are seeking consent for EFSA to bring in a fast-track and simplified approvals procedure (dressed up as "more efficient" than the old procedure) and making it virtually impossible for anybody to question EFSA's overall competence or individual decisions -- pre or post approval. As ever, the wishes and aspirations of the people of Europe are sidelined, and we see clues in the documents as to your real agenda. It also seems to us that the Commission is desperate to appease the US administration and the WTO, and only too willing to place the wishes of a very small group of "affected stakeholders" (ie biotechnology companies, GMO farmers, producers and exporters of GM seeds to EU, livestock breeders depending on GM feed, feed processors) above those of the mass of the European population.
We therefore ask you to withdraw these draft proposals, to subject them to much closer scrutiny, and to take due account of the almost universal critical response from NGOs and consumer groups to what you are proposing. You MUST accept that national and regional GMO bans can be founded on "scientific uncertainty" -- and indeed that will be precisely in tune with the Precautionary Principle which is a key component of the relevant Regulations. Furthermore, it is now apparent (from newly published research) that GM crops are NOT substantially equivalent to their non-GM isolines -- and that many of the existing GMO consents in Europe are invalid and illegal.
We will be grateful for your detailed consideration of the points raised above, and we look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes
Dr Brian John
cc: Mr Herman Van Rompuy
President of the European Council
Jill Evans MEP
President Jose-Manuel Barroso
President Jerzy Buzek
President, European Parliament
Email: Head of Cabinet
Elin Jones AM
Rural Affairs Minister
Welsh Assembly Government