On 13th January 2015, the European Parliament adopted a game-changing new Directive on the "renationalisation of GMO authorisation procedures".
The 'game-change' is that the Directive has been crafted to open the flood gates to GM authorisations in Europe. How the game was changed seems to have been a sleight-of-hand which substituted biotech industry interests for those originally put forward.
Corinne Lepage's* proposal to tighten GMO regulations and give EU countries the freedom to declare a moratorium on GM received a positive response in its first reading by the European Parliament.
In the original draft, health-, environmental- and legal-security for Member States were key. But during subsequent readings, it seems the text was "completely erased".
Contrary to what has been declared, what has been adopted "will not allow the legal security for Member States that want to prohibit GMOs in their territory." Consumer concerns over the adequacy of GMO health-assessments are nowhere, and Member States won't be able to ban a GMO due to insufficient studies. Indeed, it seems EU countries' reasons for refusing GM can't include their own analysis of health and environmental risks: it's difficult to see how any GM prohibition could actually be justified and implemented. As regards co-existence measures, these deal only with border areas between a GMO-growing Member State and one that doesn't grow GMOs.
The new Directive has, of course, been supported by Westminster. Our Deparment of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been busy deflecting GM opposition with assurances that "We do not expect any commercial planting of GM crops in the UK for at least a few years as no GM crops in the EU approval pipeline are of major interest to UK farmers" and that "the government will ensure that pragmatic rules are in place to segregate GM and non-GM production".
GM concern groups, however, are sceptical that the Government will simply be "using the time to clear away all obstacles to the introduction of GMOs to English farms and trying to persuade Scotland and Wales to do the same", and that 'pragmatic rules' just means "as few and as weak as possible". Of particular concern is that all mandatory measures to prevent contamination of non-GM crops and establish liability rules to give non-GMO farmers legal and financial protection have been stripped out of the Directive.
Ironically, as Westminster prepares the ground for its planned push into GM agriculture and the total maize production in the EU increased 15.1% last year, GM maize output (according to the Spanish Agriculture Ministry) fell by 11.7%*.
*This figure might not be very reliable because, tellingly, there is no monitoring of the areas planted with GMOs in Spain nor is there any detailed register as required by EU law.
The EU continues to be a major importer of GM soyabeans and maize protein-base for animal feed.
While the USDA claims "It is increasingly difficult for European importers to source non-biotech products", the French are embarking on another solution: grow their own protein crops.
After a peak in 1992, protein crops in France have dropped by 78%. To reverse this, a seven-year "protein plan" was unveiled at the end of 2014. Under this scheme, French farmers will be granted €100-200 per hectare to grow crops such as field peas, fava beans and soyabeans.
Self-sufficiency in animal feed would seem a sensible route away from GM supplies, the strangle-hold of globalisation, and dependency on the US. Westminster and all the devolved UK governments could usefully follow the French lead. Start suggesting it.
*Corinne Lepage is the former president of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament and honorary president of CRIIGEN (Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering) which was founded by Gilles-Eric Séralini because of concerns about the quality of studies on GMO safety and their scientific evaluation.
- EU Parliament backs GMO opt-out for EU member states, European Commission Press Release 13.01.15
- EU's harvest of genetically modified corn falls, www.agrimoney.com, 14.01.14
- Lawrence Woodward, UK government preparing the ground for GM crops, Beyond GM, 5.01.15
- Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan calls on MEPs to vote against GMO report, www.gmo-free-regions.org 12.01.15
- Nouvelle Directive OGM Renforcement, CRIIGEN press release 15.01.15
- The Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, www.greens-efa.au, GMO campaign newsletter GMO (In)digest, Issue 16, 27.01.15