Current rules on GM crops ‘create conflict’, says European Commissioner-designate

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm crops, European union

Andriukaitis addressed the European Parliament‘s Committee on the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (ENVI) on Tuesday
Andriukaitis addressed the European Parliament‘s Committee on the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (ENVI) on Tuesday
The European Commissioner-elect for health and food safety has said he intends to review rules on GM crop cultivation and broker compromise on animal cloning, among other top-priority topics.

Vytenis Andriukaitis is not due to take up his new role until next month, but in a committee hearing this week he was asked his position on some of the toughest issues he is likely to face, including GM crops, animal cloning and protecting European food standards during trade negotiations.

Speaking about GM crops, he said: “Right from the start, on November 1, I immediately have to take measures and look into the whole package of rules. The current rules create conflict because the opinions of the member state are ignored. In my opinion, the sovereignty and subsidiarity of the member states must be respected.”

Indeed, the Commission’s president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker said in his political guidelines​ statement in July that he intended to review the approval process for genetically modified crops.

Only two GM crops have been approved for cultivation in Europe – Monsanto’s MON810 corn, and BASF’s Amflora potato.

Several other GM crops are not approved for cultivation but can be imported into Europe, and unintentional presence of GMOs is tolerated at a level of up to 0.9% in other crops. However, the progress of GM crops in Europe has been stalled by fiercely divided opinion between member states, and several countries have faced legal challenges after banning cultivation of GM crops under a ‘get-out’ clause in existing legislation.

Huge philosophical problem

Andriukaitis echoed Juncker’s earlier statement, saying: “The Commission’s decision should not conflict with the opinions of the member states. No doubt the cultivation of GMOs in Europe is a huge problem from a philosophical point of view.

“Biological diversity in Europe is great and interfering with the balance of our ecosystems could be very harmful. Decisions in this field should fall within the competencies of the member states and we need to respect the principle of subsidiarity.”

The Greens/European Free Alliance has said the appointment of Andriukaitis’ is promising, especially given his medical background, and in light of the pledged review of GM authorisation.

However, the alliance also said in a blog post​: “A clear part of the brief is to "simplify existing legislation", which is shorthand for scaling backing existing EU standards and regulations,”

“…We will take [Juncker] at his word and expect the Commission to make sure the important and necessary overhaul of the EU authorisation system is not jeopardised by the controversial proposal to allow member states to opt out of GMO authorisations, which cannot be a trick to allow easier EU authorisations.”

Animal cloning

On the issue of animal cloning, Andriukaitis alluded to deeply divided opinions on the issue, and said: “My position is very clear: I am an honest broker to coordinate all different opinions, and to strive for compromises taking into account the European Parliament’s opinion on this issue.”

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GMO is dead in Europe

Posted by Marin Velcev,

All big GM companies stopped all submission activities for planting GM crops in Europe. They know very well that it is wasting of money and other resources. Level of ignorance, propaganda and confusion on GM issues is probably irreversible in EU. It is underlined by the fact, that from purely economical reasons, EU does not need GM crops urgently. So it is interesting to watch how GM opponents still continue debate, which is in fact useless.

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"Conflict" is really between politics and honest review of science.

Posted by Andy Aleat,

Fran—You make some striking claims, but almost uniformly contrary to published data! Please do your homework first.

There is no such thing as a 'superweed'. Herbicide resistant plants have been arising for decades, mainly as a result of poor agronomic practices, long before herbicide tolerant GMO crops were introduced.

2,4-D is one of the least toxic pesticides to bees, and is even recommended as a herbicide ingredient to minimize effects on bees.

Insect biodiversity has INCREASED for farmers using Bt-based crops, because Bt is more selective than commonly-used existing insecticides. This increased biodiversity has even resulted in greater numbers of beneficial predatory insects, which ironically has benefitted adjacent non-GM crops!

Your statistic on the productivity of "small" farmers needs to be validated (what crops, what size of farm, what data source). What has this got to do with the topic of the article?

Please show your data claiming that food productivity can be doubled in ten years: clearly you are in line for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

Per pound of food, current Western organic farming practice has a greater negative effect on greenhouse gas emissions that conventional fertilizer practice.

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How about removing conflict by banning GMOs and cloning?

Posted by Fran Murrell,

The introduction of GM crops designed to be sprayed with weedkillers have led to over 50% of US farms developing "superweeds". GM crops are also failing due to 'superpests' developing resistance to the GM toxins produced in these crops. The solution to this, according to the GM companies, is GM crops designed to be sprayed with 2,4-D and insecticide treatment to seeds that kill bees.

UN reports show that 70% of food is produced by 30% of small farmers despite using only 30% of resources. In contrast big GM industrial agriculture not only uses 70% of resources to produce a fraction of the food we eat, also creates climate change by its dependence on fossil fuel and long supply chains.

The world cannot afford this crazy destruction of biodiversity, local food and local economies. End the subsidies and research money going to industrial agriculture and GM and spend it on agroecology. This can double food production in 10 years in the places that need it most while cooling the climate and reducing rural poverty according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

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