A new law being discussed in Brussels this week could give biotech companies “unprecedented power” over decisions to ban genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).
Under the proposals, national governments must request permission for a ban from the biotech company, FoE claimed.
The law is being promoted as a way of giving governments more control over decisions on whether to ban GM crops, but FoE fear it could grant biotech companies – such as Monsanto – the legal right to decide on whether a band should be allowed.
Adrian Bebb, food campaign coordinator for FoE Europe, said if firms insisted on selling GM crops, governments would be forced to fall back on vague, non-scientific legal grounds upon which to ban them.
‘Affront to democracy’
“It is an affront to democracy that companies like Monsanto will be given legal status in any decision to ban their products,” Bebb added. “Governments must be able to ban unwanted and risky GM crops without needing the permission of the companies who profit from them.”
National governments have fought against new GM crops and strongly defended their rights to ban them for more than 15 years, Bebb claimed.
“This proposal is a poisoned chalice that fails to give Member States the solid legal grounds to ban GM crops,” he added. National governments should be given powers to keep their fields GM-free and to protect consumer choice, FoE claimed.
As a minimum, the proposal should be rejected and the legal basis for banning GM crops strengthened, it added.
Monsanto rejected FoE’s position, saying: “As Monsanto stated publicly a year ago, our business in the EU is almost entirely 99% focused on non-GM seeds,” a spokesman added. “We have no new GM trait cultivation requests left in the system and no intention to submit any new ones anytime soon.”
The biotech industry was disappointed by the inability of the EU institutions and Member States to fully implement the current framework for GM approvals they had agreed, the biotech industry body Europabio claimed.
Eupopabio added in a statement: “The discussion to renationalise a common policy, based on non-objective grounds, is a negative precedent and contrary to the spirit of the single market.
“The EU legal framework for the cultivation of GM products has never been correctly implemented. Most products for cultivation have not been put to the Member States’ vote as required by law.”
Any product that fulfils the EU’s science-based risk assessment requirements as set out in EU legislation should be authorised without undue delay, Europabio added.
Failing to support the EU’s own best science is damaging for growth, innovation, investment and consumer confidence, Europabio added.