MEPs clash with the Commission over GM crops – again

By Tracy West

- Last updated on GMT

'The Parliament’s message is loud and clear: the Commission cannot carry on taking decisions on GM crops by itself, without the backing of EU governments, parliament and citizens,' said Greenpeace. © iStock / Adrian Hancu
'The Parliament’s message is loud and clear: the Commission cannot carry on taking decisions on GM crops by itself, without the backing of EU governments, parliament and citizens,' said Greenpeace. © iStock / Adrian Hancu

Related tags: Gm crops, European union

Members of the European Parliament have once again clashed with the European Commission over its stance on genetically modified (GM) crops.

In a symbolic, non-binding vote yesterday MEPs opposed the importation of three GM soybeans (MON 87705×MON 89788, FG72 and MON 87708×MON 89788) for use as food and feed, saying that the Commission’s proposed authorisation was “not consistent with Union law”​.

The objections stem from the fact that the three GM soybeans in question are engineered to tolerate spraying with glyphosate or a combination of glyphosate and other herbicides.

This means residues of these herbicides could be found on imported grains – and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen to humans. But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not assessed the risks associated with its use on GM crops, nor the effects of combinations of glyphosate with other herbicides.

Commenting on the vote, Beat Späth, director for agricultural biotechnology at EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, said: “The Commission is required by the legal framework for GMOs and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights to authorise safe GM products for import. This was confirmed at the beginning of this year by the European Ombudsman who stated that failure to do so within reasonable timelines constituted maladministration. The most obvious and linear generator of innovation, jobs and growth is to approve safe new products within legally prescribed and predictable timelines.”

But IFOAM EU, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, and Slow Food and were all quick to welcome the Parliament’s stand against the Commission – even though its objection is not binding for the Commission.

Eric Gall, policy manager at IFOAM EU, said: “Importing these GM soybeans could expose consumers and farm animals in the EU to adverse effects from the herbicides they have been sprayed with and, to date, the effects of the herbicide plus GMO combination has not been assessed. Neither have the herbicide cocktails proposed. No herbicide-tolerant GMOs should be authorised until this has been done.”

Franziska Achterberg, EU food policy director at Greenpeace, said: “The Parliament’s message is loud and clear: the Commission cannot carry on taking decisions on GM crops by itself, without the backing of EU governments, parliament and citizens. The Commission needs to rethink the GMO approval system. Until it does, no new GM crops should be approved.”

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, agreed that the authorisation system for GMOs was unfit for purpose.

And Ursula Hudson, president of Slow Food Germany, stated: “No more than 13 out of 28 EU Member States voted in favour of allowing the import of these GM soybeans into the EU, whilst an equal number has voted against. Yet, the Commission authorises them. We urgently need a new authorisation mechanism as well as clear labelling for citizens to make informed choices."

This latest vote is the third time in just a few months that the Parliament has clashed with the Commission over its policy on GMOs. Last October, a separate EU law that would enable any EU member state to restrict or prohibit the sale and use of EU-approved GMO food or feed on its territory was opposed by Parliament. MEPs called on the Commission to table a new proposal. And in December, the Parliament rejected the import of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603 × T25 and called for a moratorium on GMO authorisations until new rules were introduced.

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