Clear explanation of problems with the GMO opt-out plan
The following, from the European Green Party’s newsletter, is a clear explanation of the problems with the GMO opt-out legislation.
The newsletter also reports that the area of GMO planting in Spain has shrunk, suggesting that farmers are not interested in planting the only GMO approved for cultivation in Europe, MON810 maize.
Renationalisation proposal (opt-out): New EU scheme eases way for GMOs without addressing flawed authorisation process
The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament
GMO (In)digest: Issue 16 of the GMO Campaign Newsletter, 27 Jan 2015
The European Parliament voted on 15 January to endorse an agreement on a new scheme for the authorisation of genetically-modified organisms in the EU (480 +, 159 –, 58 o). The Greens voted against the new scheme, as it would renationalise decisions about GMO cultivation instead of reforming the risk assessment process for GMOs, which is urgently needed.
Although ALDE MEP Frédérique Ries, rapporteur, had improved the political compromise from the Council in her report (voted at a large majority in the ENVI Committee on 5 November 2014), the Council did not show any willingness to compromise on key issues and the trilogues did not allow keeping most of what the Greens had asked for. Indeed, the EP was not able to keep the environmental legal base, the veto right for EP when it comes to authorisations, the reference to the necessity of improving the authorisation procedure and the demand for a strict liability system.
As regards coexistence measures, very weak ones have been adopted, as they deal only with border areas between a GMO-growing Member State and one that does not grow GMOs. Moreover, no specific measure needs to be taken if neighbouring Member States do agree that geographical conditions do not warrant specific coexistence measures.
More importantly, the EP hasn't succeeded in throwing the biotech companies out of the process in phase 1, during the authorisation process, when a Member State must ask the applicant to exclude its territory from the scope of the authorisation, leaving the door open to secret deals between Member States and private companies, putting them at the same level of decision making as elected government. This is totally unacceptable to the Greens/EFA group. What rapporteur Ries has obtained during the negotiations, though, is that a Member State is not obliged to ask the permission of the company before it decides to ban a GMO in phase 2, after the GMO has been authorised. Also, it can ban a GMO or a group of GMOs at once that and makes phase 2 more attractive. And finally, a Member State can decide to ban a GMO during the whole authorisation duration, i.e. 10 years, instead of only 2 years as Council had proposed.
After the vote, Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said:
“This new scheme will ease the way for GMOs in Europe, whilst failing to respond to the need to address the flawed EU procedure for authorising GMOs. Despite a majority of EU member states and citizens being consistently opposed to GMOs, the real purpose of this new scheme is to make it easier to wave through EU authorisations of GM crops. Countries opposed to GMOs are given the carrot of being able to opt-out of these authorisations but the scheme approved today fails to give them a legally-watertight basis for doing so. This is a false solution.
The fight must now continue at the EU level, following on Juncker's commitment to improve the authorisation process by making it more democratic, as specified in the mission letter sent to the new SANTE Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis and in the Commission Work Program for 2015.
The Greens/EFA group will also be strongly involved at the national level in order for national governments to make sure they use the opportunities of this new text to effectively ban GMO crops on their territory. A first test case on the governments' willingness to act will be when Pioneer GMO maize 1507 may be formally authorized, and when the renewal of the authorization for Monsanto MON810 maize may be granted.
GMO free regions 2015: Save the Date
Governments, Business and Civil Society gather in Berlin from 6 to 8 May 2015.
Ten years after the first European GMO Free Regions conference took place in Berlin, over 60 regional governments and hundreds of companies and their associations and civil society organizations will meet on May 6-8 2015 again: “GMO Free Europe – Future Opportunities and Challenges”. The Greens/EFA group in the EP is partnering this great initiative.
Participants from political circles, economists, scientists and civil society from all over Europe, as well as guests from America, Asia and Africa will discuss the chances of a future agriculture without GMOs. The meeting will provide the opportunity to reflect on new challenges for a GMO-free Europe:
* Europe needs a coherent protein strategy guaranteeing the supply of GMO-Free feed, reducing soybean imports, fostering agro-biodiversity and reducing climate gas emissions.
* Seed must be remain completely free of GMOs – “Low level presence” of GMOs in seed is unacceptable.
* Zero tolerance must also be applied to non-authorized GMOs in food.
* The so called “Opt out” revision of the present EU GMO legislation allowing for national bans on GMO cultivation and its national implementation must be followed closely, just as changes planned on the GMO authorization procedure. Free trade agreements such as between the EU and Canada (CETA) and the EU and US (TTIP) must not become gateways for lowering the standards of consumer and environmental protection.
* New scientific and technical developments in biotechnology raise questions concerning the present and future definition of what constitutes a genetically modified organism.
All these issues will be presented and discussed in Berlin in May 2015, when for the first time the three pillars of GMO Free Europe – regional governments, GMO-free businesses and NGOs – will jointly organise a conference.
Spain, Czech Republic: GMO maize in regression
For the first time since 2010, the area cultivated with GMO maize has decreased in Spain in 2014 compared to 2013, according to the Spanish Agriculture Ministry. These figures may not be very reliable because there is no monitoring of the areas that are planted with GMOs, nor a detailed register (although imposed by EU law) or coexistence measures in Spain. The estimation comes from the sales figures from the seed sellers and considering that farmers use 85000 seeds per hectare. Greenpeace Spain had shown in 2013 that the official figures from the Ministry may be overestimated by up to 70%.
Nevertheless, the data indicate a decrease from 137000 ha in 2013 to 131.500 for a total maize growing area of 416700 ha. It is a 4% decrease that seems to indicate some disinterest about the only GMO that is allowed to be grown in the EU. Also, Spain is by far the biggest grower of GMOs in the EU, and the decrease is in the same order of magnitude as all what is grown in all the other EU countries that grow MON810, i.e. Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
In the Czech Republic, the area of GMO maize has continuously decreased from the record year of 2008 (except for 2011). It was planted on 8400 ha by 167 farmers in 2008 and there were only 18 farmers that grew 1750 ha of MON810 in 2014.
All together, the area of GMO maize covers 0.13% of the EU maize production.