Most of us are used to thinking of decentralising decision-making powers away from Brussels and back to national governments as a good thing. Well most of the time it is, as national sovereignty in Europe has taken an enormous battering while the ‘European plan’ has been rolled out over the last 20 or so years.
But when it comes to GM, and you look beneath the surface of the issue, it’s rather different. In fact, it looks like the EU have found a backdoor to their biotechnology game plan which is about getting as much of the European agricultural land area over to GM as they can — and as much of the genetically modified stuff directly or indirectly (via animal feed) into our mouths as they possibly can.
You have to remember that it’s European consumers who have been the main stumbling block up for the planned European GM roll out until now. We, the people of Europe, have felt very uncomfortable about consuming GM. We’ve rejected it from the marketplace in virtually all countries and the main way we consume it is when most of us don’t know we’re consuming it, i.e. when it’s added to animal feed. A whopping 85% of compounded animal feed in the EU now contains GM feed.
(Source: ec.europa.eu) Commissioner John Dalli
We also can’t forget the role that many European environment ministers played in supporting the Hungarian and Austrian bans on GM maize. But let’s also remember that these views were often contrary to those of the Prime Ministers of individual member states, who aligned themselves with the pro-GM European Commission and the biotech corporations. One can only assume that this pro-GM stance is the result of ignorance given that the prime ministers are unlikely to have given themselves the time to become acquainted with the rapidly growing body of evidence revealing the downsides of GM. This aside, corruption would be another possible reason for the GM bias which runs massively counter to Europe’s precautionary approach to consumer protection in so many other areas.
So, let’s look a little closer at this backdoor. At the moment, individual countries in Europe can block the cultivation of GM crops if they believe that they pose a risk to human health or the environment. The new EU proposals would allow countries to ban the growing of these crops for other reasons, such as socio-economic ones and impacts on contamination of non-GM and organic crops. But it seems clear that derogating more powers to member states has been offered as a bargaining tool to get them to back off on their opposition to GMO applications for cultivation.
This could well lead to a situation where pro-GM countries like the UK, Sweden, Finland and Holland will start to cultivate more and more GM. This then creates an interesting issue with Europe’s laws, firmly built into the Lisbon Treaty, on freedom of movement of goods. What might happen, for example if a major seed supplier which sells GM seeds in one member state is then prevented selling them in another? The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) decision on safety will carry a lot of weight in court so if EFSA says the seeds, and crops emerging thereof, are safe — how would the European Court of Justice react? Would concerns over socio-economics or concerns over the co-existence between GM and non-GM crops be enough to overcome one country’s ban?
What if a European supermarket chain were to object to one member state’s obstruction of their ability to sell GM foods when the same supermarket, like most in the US, sells processed foods that are full of GM in a number of EU member states?
We are deeply concerned that when you combine Europe’s policy on free movement of goods, with mutual recognition policy, together with EFSA’s consistent green lighting of approvals for GM crops, you have the recipe to massively expand GM usage. Yes, it might take a few court cases here and there, but it sure as anything looks like a backdoor to us.
Article 36 of the Lisbon Treaty makes clear the grounds by which a member state can maintain a ban, but it also makes clear that “Such prohibitions or restrictions shall not, however, constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between Member States.” It could get sticky that’s for sure, and maintaining the ban would not be easy with EFSA consistently (and deliberately) misreading the literature in such a way as to keep on granting approvals for GM crops.
EU citizens call to action!!
We strongly appeal to EU citizens to let your Environment Minister, your MEP and the European Commission know how you feel about the Commission’s proposal.
Contact your national Environment Minister (although with some countries the information may not have been updated)
b) that there should be a moratorium on GM approvals
c) that the precautionary principle, which is actually incorporated within European general food law (Regulation No. 178/2002), should be applied to all GM products given uncertainty over the risks they pose to human health.
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