EU Proposals on GM Crop Approvals Uncceptable Until All Issues Tackled
Immediate release (13 Jul 2010)
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
Proposals due to be presented today by the European Commission to speed up EU approvals of GMOs for cultivation by claiming to introduce a right to ban GM cultivation at national level should be “approached with extreme caution” according to GM Freeze.
The proposals have been produced to try to overcome Member State (MS) opposition to the commercial cultivation approval of GM crops. In return for concessions, which the Commission claims will allow GM crops to be banned:
Member States are expected to adopt a more positive stance at the stage of risk assessment and avoid having to recourse to the safeguard clause to address non-scientific issues. 
The Commission proposals are in two parts:
- an amendment to the Directive governing the release of GMOs giving MS the right to ban (a new Article 26b),
- a revised recommendation on the coexistence of GM and conventional and organic crops.
The new Article 26b will take at least two years to become law, leaving MS with only the Commission’s non-binding recommendations available to prevent GM cultivation and contamination until it does. During that two years the Commission is expected to attempt to get new GM crops approved, stating there are currently 16 applications for GM crops for cultivation awaiting approvals, most of which are maize.
Many EU MS are not happy with the safety assessments of GM crops for cultivation on health and environmental grounds and have demanded a tougher approach. Members States are also concerned that preventing contamination of conventional and organic crops will prove impossible while liability for contamination also remains unresolved. In addition, the problems of maintain GM-free seeds for farmers, growers and gardeners, as well as preventing cross- border contamination, have not be addressed by the Commission. 
The Commission has re-drafted their proposals since the publication of an authoritative legal opinion  that found the original version to be “riddled with legal uncertainty and lack of reasoning”.
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
Member States should approach the Commission’s proposals claiming to facilitate bans on GM crops with extreme caution. They need to ensure that in the short and long term that they will be able to ban a GM crop without ending up in court or with a WTO dispute. This could have implications for the UK because Wales and Scotland have GM-free policies.
Allowing Member States the right to make the final decision whether or not a GM crop is grown is the right thing to do, but what is currently on the table needs careful evaluation, especially as it appears to be subject to last minute changes. The current version is still silent on serious questions about protection of health and environment like full protection from contamination for conventional and organic farms throughout the EU, laws to prevent seed contamination, and legal certainty for those who wish to keep GM crops out of their territory. Unless all these issues are tackled, this hastily redrafted proposal should be rejected.
Notes The European Commission’s Explanatory Memorandum says (copy available on request):
“Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation modifying Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to prohibit, restrict or impede the cultivation of GMOs in their territory (Doc. SANCO/ /2010).” See Council Conclusions on Genetically Modified Organisms 2912th Environment Council meeting Brussels, 4 December 2008 at www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/envir/104509.pdf.  See legal opinion and summary here.