New GMOs must remain regulated, say groups
Eighty-eight civil society and farmers organisations from across Europe have written an open letter to EU health and food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, warning the EU Commission is turning a blind eye to new GMOs and demanding that it keeps new GMOs regulated.
The controversial new generation of food genetic engineering techniques should be subject to EU safety checks and consumer labelling, according to an EU Court of Justice ruling, but the organisations complain that the European Commission is not implementing this ruling.
GMWatch, as an organisation with an international focus, is among the signatories to the letter.
The letter expresses concern that Ms Kyriakides "may consider a separate, light-touch regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) derived from genome editing and other new GM techniques. We are asking you instead to strengthen EU GMO policy, in particular as regards consumers’ right to know, freedom of choice for breeders, farmers and processors and the democratic scrutiny of EU GMO decisions."
The letter was prompted by reports that the Commission is “carrying out a study which will look at the potential of new genomic techniques to improve sustainability along the food supply chain”. However, the letter points out that the European Council has not mandated the Commission to investigate the potential of new GM technology to improve sustainability. It has raised practical issues linked to the enforcement of EU GMO rules as interpreted by the European Court of Justice ruling that new GM techniques such as gene editing fall within the scope of the EU's GMO laws. The signatories say they believe that those issues "can be overcome with the Commission’s support".
The letter states, "It is highly unlikely that new GM technology will contribute to reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment and climate. So far, two genome-edited GMOs have made it to market, neither of which is a hardier plant or helps to reduce pesticide use. Promises to create drought-resistant crops and to reduce pesticide use are as old as GM technology. These promises have failed, not least because stable yields in an unstable climate are a matter of sound farming practices and locally adapted seeds, and can hardly be achieved with seeds produced by multinational companies to suit a globalised, input-heavy industrial farming model."
The letter concludes with the groups' request to meet with Ms Kyriakides.