You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes, you can’t seem to please any of them at all!
The Euoepean Commission’s latest proposals in the genetically modified organisms (GMO) saga would appear to have pleased very few.
The president of the European Compound Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC), Patrick Vanden Avenne, has noted that the Commission proposal is a proactive attempt to move out of the political deadlock regarding the implementation of EU GM legislation. Beyond this, however, he has expressed his “deep concern”.
Expected for some months, in July the Commission proposed offering Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of GMOs on part or all of their territory.
The proposals would leave the authorization system unchanged, but would allow Member States to take into account local, regional, and national conditions when adopting co-existence measures, ie where GM crops are sufficiently segregated from non-GM varieties.
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli, commenting on the proposals, said: “Experience with GMOs so far shows that Member States need more flexibility to organize the co-existence of GM and other types of crops, such as conventional and organic crops.”
He continued that the Commission was delivering on its promise to present a comprehensive proposal on future policy for GM cultivation and that follow up actions on the proposals would be carried out by the end of the year.
Opposition to the proposals, however, has come from various quarters. Environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth has argued that in speeding up the authorization process, Member States are being promised the right to ban GM cultivation – if they reduce their opposition during the EU-level authorization process.
“While the European Commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality the proposal aims to do the opposite – opening Europe’s fields to GM crops, and we urge countries to reject this deal as it stands,” Friends of the Earth says.
UK farming union NFU is also unhappy with the proposals. It emphasizes that the plans would give individual Member States the immediate power to set coexistence rules on regional or national level, without any scientific basis, in order to restrict or ban cultivation.
It argues that the proposals set a dangerous precedent and threaten the internal market.
NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser Dr Helen Ferrier says: “Instead of giving reassurances to support an effective and rigorous authorization process for GM crops across the EU, this proposal is all about enabling countries to ban the growing of GM crops.”
However, beyond the current confusion surrounding the proposals, the longer term effects could be far more serious.
Mr Vanden Avenne comments that the Commissions plans “may further exacerbate feed supply problems to EU livestock farmers due to the high EU dependence on vital protein imports. This will further erode their competitiveness, ultimately leading to the export of the EU livestock sector”.
He also raised the urgent need of the EU compound feed and premix industry for a clear, practical “technical solution”, regarding trace levels of risk-assessed GM crops not yet authorized in the EU.
“EU livestock farmers and feed manufacturers have already paid a very high price due to the absence of practical threshold levels.
No doubt the follow-up actions over the remaining months of the year will be closely watched – and we will return to the saga again next year!