GMOs on the Commission's table: still not edible for farmers, consumers and the environment

Feature story - March 21, 2005
Environmental organisations, consumers and organic farming groups urged the European Commission today to listen to public opinion and break with the former executive's pro-GMO policy. They also presented a legal opinion criticising EU plans on the "co-existence" (growing together) of genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops. The Commission will debate its policy on genetically-modified organisms tomorrow.

Rice Variety

The document that Commissioners will discuss tomorrow is likely to acknowledge the growing demand for GMO-free zones across Europe , and express concern about the fact that decisions on new GMOs default to the Commission, due to deadlocks and disagreement among member states. Even so, the Commission will say that it plans to press ahead with new approvals for the cultivation of GMOs, in spite of a legal loophole in EU legislation concerning coexistence.

"The Commission has to send a signal that it is ready to listen to the concerns of the public, farmers and member states on the impact of GMOs on the environment and the economy," said Eric Gall of Greenpeace. "The Commission cannot simply pass the hot potato to member states and then blame them for failing to agree. It should first ensure that the EU's own legal requirements on risk evaluation and monitoring of GMOs are properly implemented."

A new legal opinion, published today, has criticised the European Commission's approach on GM crop co-existence with other crops as 'fundamentally flawed". The opinion, by Paul Lasok QC, an expert in European law, was commissioned by a coalition of environment and consumer organisations in the UK and criticises the Commission Recommendation as having "no basis in Community legislation" and being "wrong in law". [1]

"The Commission's plan to release GMOs without proper co-existence legislation to protect the environment, consumers, conventional and organic farmers is totally irresponsible. If this policy is adopted, Europe 's countryside will soon be completely contaminated by GMOs. These outrageous plans need to be stopped by all means," said Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe.

Mauro Albrizio of the European Environmental Bureau added: "The Commission needs to initiate EU legislation on co-existence as soon as possible, and it must recognise that local authorities and regions have the right to set up GM-free zones,"

Francesco Montanari of Euro Coop said: "At this stage, a stricter EU legal framework for GM labelling is urgently needed in order to ensure an adequate protection both for the large number of consumers who do not want to eat GM foods and the food chain operators who want to be GM-free. Labelling of seed contamination must therefore be fixed at the detection level of 0.1% and labelling of products derived from animals fed GM feed needs to be introduced.

"Endangering jobs in Europe 's organic farming and GM-free sector for the benefit of a few GMO producers is economic madness," said Marco Schlüter of the organic farming association IFOAM EU Group. "In Germany alone, the organic farming sector has created around 75,000 new jobs, compared to some hundred new jobs in the agri-GMO business. The only new jobs the GMO business creates are in laboratories, to test products to exclude any GMO contamination."