Barroso's empty GM deal
European Voice (Letters), 8 July 2010
The European Commission's offer to allow national bans on genetically modified crops is hollow and could be easily overturned in court.
The thought of eating genetically modified (GM) crops puts most European citizens off their food and so will the European Commission's latest scheme to fast-track new GM crops onto our farms ("Barroso's GM doctrine", 1-7 July).
The scheme offers member states a deal approve all new GM crops at EU level without fuss, in return for the right to ban them at a local level if you do not like them. One would think that we environmental and consumer groups, together representing tens of millions of members, would welcome the right to ban crops with such worrying health, environmental and contamination problems.
But we don't. Why? Simply because the offer is empty.
The best lawyers tell us that member states are being offered no additional powers to issue bans for health, environment and contamination reasons, despite these being the most serious and legally reliable grounds. Instead, only ethical grounds are offered, which are legally intangible, subjective and easily overturned in court.
Why would Commission President José Manuel Barroso put his name to a scheme that contains the seeds of an empty promise and which does not give member states any substantial right to decide freely about GM cultivation on their land? It is clear that it stands a good chance of initially pacifying member states concerned about GM. But asking them to drop any health and safety concerns they have at an EU level is a real worry. The EU safety regime will be seriously jeopardised when there are no concerned member states to raise objections. We question if this is the kind of leadership we should expect from the Commission on such an explosive issue.
In 2008, member states unanimously demanded a strengthening of safety assessments for GM crops. We need to see the Commission implement this demand in full, not offer the right to turn a blind eye. We would welcome the right for countries to ban GM if that right were genuine.
European consumers, the environment and food and farming sectors will only be protected with strong Europe-wide measures to prevent food and feed from being contaminated by GM, an ever-present risk.
Member states should be aware that in the next couple of weeks they will be offered an empty promise, the result of which stands to change irreversibly the face of European agriculture for the worse. We call on the European Parliament and member states to reject this deal to ensure a GM-free future.
Director, European Unit Greenpeace
Friends of the Earth Europe
Secretary-general Euro Coop