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Spelman Urged to Reject EC Plans to Drop GM Zero Tolerance Policy Legal Doubts Over Proposals

Immediate release (7 Feb 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze today urged Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman to reject European Commission (EC) plans that would allow the presence of unapproved GMOs in animal feed imports, ending the EU’s policy of zero tolerance to unapproved GM crops.

In a letter to Mrs Spelman [1] GM Freeze also questions whether the EC’s proposals are legal following the release of a detailed legal opinion on the draft Regulation, which will be discussed, and possibly voted on, at a meeting in Brussels on 8 February. [2]

The group rejects the proposals from the Commission because they:

  • are unnecessary because only 0.2% of all EU soya imports have ever been rejected for containing unapproved GMOs (all of which came from the US), and none at all since June 2009 – 99.8% shipments entered the EU market without any problems. [3]
  • weaken the EU’s regulation of GMO safety and set a precedent for further weakening in the future.
  • ignore EU public opinion (61% of Europeans think GM crops should not be encouraged). [4]
  • open up the possibility that a high-risk GM trait (such as a gene engineered to produce pharmaceuticals in a crop plant such as maize) could enter the food chain with serious public health and expensive consequence. [5]
  • undermine public trust in the EU regulatory system and food chain.

The legal opinion [6], from a leading EU specialist, has questioned the legal basis by which the Commission proposes to bring the zero tolerance policy to an end because it attempts to use feed compliance laws rather than GMO legislation, where the policy was established.

Some EU Members States, including the UK, have proposed that unapproved GMOs should also be allowed in food as well as feed.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Citizens of the EU have made it very clear that they do not want GMOs in the food chain. The EC’s proposals are therefore very disrespectful of their views and merely follow the wishes of the vested interests in the animal feed and biotech industries. They are threatening shortages of animal feed in order to pressurise the EC into allowing unapproved GMOs, simply in order to avoid the necessary task of keeping GM and non-GM segregated. We should be reducing our dependence on imported animal feed, not putting the health and safety of animals and people at risk in the interests of short-term profit.

The UK government must also say no the EC proposals because there are doubts about the legal basis for what they are suggesting. Food and feed contamination with unapproved GMOs can be avoided if the right procedures are in place and the zero tolerance policy must remain. The objective must be to avoid complacency in industry and to prevent costly and risky risk and potentially irreversible contamination in the future.

ENDs

Notes

[1] Copy available on request.

[2] The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) meets 8-9 February 2011 will discuss the EC draft regulations.

[3] See No Link Between Animal Feed Crisis and EU Zero Tolerance Policy, Friends of the Earth Europe, May 2010 at www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/zero_tolerance_paper_2010.pdf.
[4] A high proportion, 70%, agrees that GM food is fundamentally unnatural. 61% of Europeans agree that GM food makes them feel uneasy. In addition, 61% of Europeans disagree that the development of GM food should be encouraged, 59% disagree that GM food is safe for their health and that of their family, and 58% disagree that GM food is safe for future generations. From TNS Opinion & Social, 2010. Eurobarometer 73.1 Biotechnology. See http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf.

5. For analysis of potential GM contamination of imports see GM Freeze report here.

6. Copy of opinion by Dr Achim Willan of Gaßner, Groth Siederer and Coll, Berlin, is available on request.