44 years of delays in the EU Approval of GM Products
Status Update of 05 November 2012
Growing backlog and trade disruptions
The EU system for approvals of GMOs is accumulating a huge backlog which is threatening to disrupt Europe’s supplies of agricultural commodities. This backlog would take almost 15 years to clear at 2012 approval rates – that is, if no new applications were to enter the system. The backlog means that the EU is not allowing certain varieties of commodities (including crops which are hardly grown in the EU, but massively consumed) to enter the EU market, despite abundant evidence of their safety. This has led to major trade disruptions in the past and is bound to do so again. A study published by the EU Commission in 2010 estimated that the overall cost to the economy of such disruptions could total € 9.6 billion.
Safety recognised by public institutions
Any given GM product waiting for EU approval has already passed similarly strict safety checks by government-appointed scientists in a number of third countries. The safety record of GM crops is unmatched: there is not a single substantiated case of adverse effects for health or the environment caused by GMOs in over 15 years of widespread commercial use on the fields on 10% of the planet’s farmlands, in food, feed and textiles. Meta studies overseen and funded by public authorities in the EU and elsewhere have consistently concluded that “GMOs, are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies” (EU 2010: 200m € of EU grants for more than 400 research groups from 2001 to 2010 alone) and that “no negative health effects from commercially used GM Crops are verifiable” (Switzerland in August 2012).
In Europe, activism beats scientific evidence
Our European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) operates in one of the strictest systems worldwide, uses 75 m € of taxpayers’ money annually to make sure our food is safe, and its scientific opinions are almost always coherent with the findings of comparable public institutions at Member State level and across the world. Yet, certain Member States consistently vote against the scientific recommendation when deciding on product approvals, and some uphold national bans on EU approved products even if the responsible EU and national public institutions say there is no scientific basis to do so, and even if declared illegal by the European Court of Justice. Certain Member State governments appear to pay more attention to unfounded allegations than to publicly conducted and publicly reviewed evidence.
Politics leads over science
The EU’s approval timelines could be brought much closer to those across the Atlantic simply by concentrating on the scientific evidence. Currently, more than one year is spent on every product on administrative processing, after risk assessment is concluded. The EU Commission has recently admitted that they rarely comply with their legal obligation to hold Member State votes on GM crops on time. In fact, by adding up all the days that the votes are overdue, one now reaches at least 44 years. In addition, several occasions for Member States to vote on products were cancelled in the second half of 2012, making any additional approvals this year practically impossible. These delays are not a matter of safety – after all, the crops have already been reviewed by scientific experts.
But… why does this matter? This video, “Bureaucratic barriers to biotech”, shows the consequences of these delays.
Please find below the November edition of the EuropaBio document 44 years and counting - backlog on GM Approvals still growing