EU GM Vote Strengthens Hands Of Member States

12 April 2011
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has cautiously welcomed the vote by the European Parliament's Environment Committee today (Tuesday) on proposed new EU rules on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
Smith, a member of the Parliament's Agriculture Committee which has also been dealing with this report, had previously expressed his concerns over the muddled proposal initially brought forward by the European Commission.

The original proposal sought to move much of the decision-making over cultivation of GM crops from the EU back to the Member States, raising concerns about cross-contamination, WTO issues due to the fragmentation of the single market and the legal solidity of the proposal. Smith criticised this as allowing GM into the EU by the back door, in that it would only take one Member State to allow cultivation and in a few years the operation of the single market would render the decision of the other Member States not to permit cultivation redundant, given the nigh impossibility of controlling intra-EU imports from GM states. The vote today in ENVI Committee has addressed some of these flaws, though not all.

Smith said:

"The Environment Committee has done a good job of clearing up what was a very messy proposal, though it will still be coming to the full Parliament plenary session with some significant flaws.

"Amendments have made the report more legally sound, especially when it comes to the ground on which Member States can ban the cultivation of GMOs on their territory. Thanks to today's vote, Member States will be able to ban cultivation: on environmental grounds; or in order to protect their biodiversity; or if they want to prevent the development of pesticide resistances in weeds; or if there is contradictory or inadequate data on the impacts of GMO cultivation.

"Crucially, MEPs voted that no new GMO variety shall be authorised until the risk assessment provisions are properly implemented. MEPs also voted to ensure that access to material necessary for independent research must not be restricted.

"Given the very real concerns of cross-contamination of conventional crops by GM crops, including cross border contamination, I am happy to see broad consensus to make anti-contamination measures mandatory. Also positive was the support for an amendment submitted by my political group which calls on Member States to establish a strict liability system to ensure the polluter pays for damages that might occur due to the cultivation or placing on the market of GMOs.

"The SNP's position on GM is sensible and workable: while we are open to examining the possibilities, and have no problem with lab trials, we are yet to be convinced by the case for it. At present there remain too many unknowns in terms of the risks it poses; consumers have made it clear that they do not want GM products in their fields or on their shelves; and the seed multinationals have grossly oversold the potential of GM: they have had most of the rest of the world outside Europe to play with, and have come up with very little."