European Commission GMO Plan Fundamentally Flawed

13 July 2010
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has condemned as a "dirty deal" new European Commission proposals on GMOs.
The Commission, through new guidelines on co-existence rules, and a legislative proposal giving Member States the right to decide not to permit GM cultivation, has ostensibly given Member States more power on this issue, but in return expects quicker authorisations on new varieties of GM products.  Furthermore, the proposals, by ignoring regions and sub-national governments, have given the UK Government the right to force GM cultivation on Scotland.

Smith said:

"This 'offer' looks more and more dubious the closer you examine it.  The Commission, having lost the argument at EU level by failing to get more than a handful of GM products authorised, is trying to switch the playing field to the Member States, in the clear hope that, in return, it will get faster authorisations.  However, this proposal in fact creates more problems than it solves.

"For a start, Member States cannot even ban GM cultivation on the most obvious bases: environmental, health or socio-economic grounds.  What is left, such as ethical grounds, is discretionary and would be open to legal challenge.

"It is illogical to fragment the single market in such a way, when we have a single market for trade and a common agricultural policy: this is a violation of the internal market.

"Second, the Commission does not force Member States to introduce strict co-existence rules.  This has serious consequences.  Member States who opt for GM cultivation and which have weak co-existence rules open up Europe's conventional and organic farming to contamination.  While it may look like a free choice for Member States on GM, the reality of contamination is that GM will be forced upon the whole of Europe eventually, which is not what our consumers want.

"Most seriously, these proposals put Scotland's ability to ensure its "GM free" status at risk.  The decision about cultivation would lie with the Member State, and any devolution of that decision would be up to the Member State: this means that the UK Government could decide that GM cultivation is to go ahead in Scotland, against the wishes of the Scottish people.  This is something which urgently needs to be clarified and rectified: it is not commensurate with Scotland's position in Europe.

"We have always maintained a sensible position on GM: while we are open to examining the possibilities, and have no problem with lab trials, we are not convinced by the case for this particular technology. There remains too many unknowns in terms of health and environmental risks; consumers have made it clear that they do not want GM products on their shelves or in their fields; 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.

"What the Commission has proposed today gives us no reason to change our minds.  The case for GM has not been made, and merely moving the goalposts will not resolve any of the issues."