Views canvassed on GM in Europe

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm crops European union

The spectrum of opinions on genetically modified organisms is to come under new scrutiny in a European consultation project to assess EU legislation governing the controversial crops.

While GM crops and foods are accepted in the US, there has been considerable resistance to them in the EU, from both consumers and governments of member states.

Governments and corporations have come to blows recently over the interpretation of EU legislation on GM cultivation.

Monsanto is suing the German government for banning YeildGuard, its GM maize. Germany, along with France, Hungary, and Austria banned the trait citing a get out clause in EU law, but Monsanto claims they can only do so if new scientific evidence comes to light after a plant has been approved.

Gauging views on GM

To evaluate the hotly debated legislative framework, the Director General for Environment of the European Commission has launched an evaluative study, looking into reactions to GM crops in Europe.

The stated aim of the project is to “assess how far the implementation of the legislative framework has achieved its objectives.”​ These goals include protection of human and animal health, defense of consumer and environmental interests, and the functioning of the internal market.

To accurately answer these questions a broad range of stakeholders from governments, biotechnology companies, professional associations and civil society organization will be consulted.

GHK Consulting has been contracted to supply this evaluation through its membership of the European Policy Evaluation Consortium (EPEC).

GHK will soon be issuing stakeholders with a questionnaire. To reach the largest number of interested parties possible, the consultancy firm has also set up a website where organisations can register their interest to participate in the study. For more information, click here​.

The evaluation is scheduled for completion by the beginning of 2010.

EFSA view

Meanwhile, the GM debate continues unabated. In a recent development, the European Food Safety Authority issued positive opinions on the safety of Monsanto’s MON 810 corn trait and Roundup Ready 2 corn product.

Monsanto says the opinions demonstrate “a strong commitment to science-based decision-making”​ and suggest that Europe could become more accepting of genetic modification.

EFSA is the EU’s independent risk assessor. While the European institutions are not bound to take its opinions into account, the Commission may now propose renewing the MON 18 approval for cultivation and other uses of conventional corn in the bloc.

However, not everyone is as gleeful about the prospect of more GM crops in Europe. Voices opposed to widespread adoption argue that the full effects on the environment and on human health will not be seen for many years to come.

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