Alyn Uneasy On EU GM Fudge

05 July 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has expressed his grudging support today (Tuesday) for new European regulation allowing Scotland, Member States and regions within them to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM on their territory.
While supporting the final compromise package, Alyn has grave reservations over the direction of travel of the EU as a whole on GM and only supported today's vote on the grounds that the alternative - the Commission's original proposal - would have been far less legally clear and continued the unworkable status quo.
The proposals will permit the prohibition of planting for a variety of duly justified reasons not directly covered by the central EU authorisation process, which will still exist (covering EU health and environmental factors). These reasons will include: local or regional environmental impacts, preventing the development of pesticide resistance among weeds and pests, the maintenance of local biodiversity, and certain socio-economic impacts. Crucially, the new law affords Scotland the same rights as Member States to restrict and ban cultivation. There will also be certain restrictions on the rights of Member States and regions to use these provisions, such as the need to make a decision six months before planting season, and the requirement to re-authorise the ban every five years.
Alyn said:
"I backed today's compromise, but am concerned we have replaced a muddle with a fudge and some are trying to pretend it is progress.
"I had very strong doubts about these proposals at the outset: there were concerns about the implications for the single market; and the opinion which came out of the Agriculture Committee sought merely to use these measures as a Trojan horse for the entry of GM into Europe.
"However, the Environment Committee and plenary did a good job of tidying up the regulations to make them robust enough to be workable. We've changed the legal basis, and enhanced the list of reasons as to why the GM in question can be banned. We've also demanded that national governments introduce strict rules on preventing contamination of non-GM crops, and clearly called for liability systems which ensure that the polluter pays. Most importantly, we've secured the right for sub-national governments, the category in which Scotland currently sits, to introduce the same measures as Member States - this is clearly of particular importance to Scotland considering the current position of the Westminster government.
"As far as cultivation is concerned, today's vote is a step forward. Scotland and Europe's consumers are clearly unconvinced by the propaganda of the GM lobby, and our vote today will boost the ability to keep an unproven technology from our fields. However, on consumption of GM, I remain concerned that the aspects of the circulation of GM product authorised for production in one Member State into others has not been fully thought through, but this is work in progress. The alternative to the package today would have been continued legal uncertainty and muddle, so we have at least closed some loopholes today."