Comitology reform threatens innovation
Making the authorisation of new and innovative products even more difficult would threaten innovation and competitiveness and hurt growth and jobs in the EU.
Brussels, 13 February 2017 - “Making the authorisation of new and innovative products even more difficult than it already is would threaten innovation and competitiveness and hurt growth and jobs in the EU”, warned Nathalie Moll, Secretary General of EuropaBio, referring to the EU Commission’s announced proposal to revise the ‘Comitology Regulation’. “As the world is looking to Europe to lead on evidence-based decision-making, we must not let politics trump science”, she added.
Ahead of the EU Commission’s legislative proposal expected this week, EuropaBio undersigned a statement signed by 18 European associations urging the Commission not to change the comitology system to the detriment of innovation and the single market. The associations emphasised that “science-based decisions must be central to comitology to allow for legal and regulatory certainty in the EU”, and also urged the Commission “to consider the impact that moving away from a science-based system would have on research, innovation and investment in Europe.”
"We encourage the European Commission to guard its independence as prescribed by the EU Treaties and uphold the fundamental principles of EU law", said Nathalie Moll. “Although some Member States are clearly not doing enough to support science, the European Commission has a legal obligation to authorise safe products if Member States fail to reach an opinion. Past rulings by the European Court of Justice and the European Ombudsman prove that the Commission has not been doing enough to guarantee the functioning of the existing, democratically agreed legal framework”, she added.
"Instead of encouraging political vetoes on safe and innovative products that can help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, the Commission and its agencies should build trust in the world class existing procedures and in safety-assessed products. This is especially important where unfounded concerns and insufficient knowledge of the multiple benefits of these products persist. A system in which products assessed as safe are not approved is not logical and damages the internal market and the European economy”, added Nathalie Moll.
- In its present form, the existing comitology procedure favors the approval of products assessed as safe by providing a high threshold (i.e. a qualified majority of Member States) to veto their authorization. In most countries, administrative permits and approvals cannot simply be vetoed by politicians, as long as the applicant fulfils the requirements specified in democratically agreed rules. For example, citizens expect to receive their driving license soon after they pass their exam.
- Renowned organisations including the European Academies of Science, the European Food Safety Authority, the World Health Organisation and the European Commission have all confirmed the safety of GMO crops. Where products have been considered safe by the EU’s own safety authority(ies), there is no reason to doubt their safety.
- As demonstrated in our factsheets on Member State voting behavior and GMO risk assessment timelines, unscientific decision-making and bureaucratic hurdles are greatly hindering innovation in Europe, and we strongly feel that it is time for the EU to face the facts on GMOs and start supporting agricultural biotechnology. Preventing the authorization and import of safety-assessed products, which already provide so many benefits, would cost the EU dearly and further erode trust in the EU’s risk assessment process.
- Factsheet: What is the approval process for import of GMOs in the EU?, EuropaBio, July 2014.
- Position paper: Call for a functioning, evidence-based EU policy on GMOs, the EU Food and Feed Chain , May 2015.
 Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and the Council of 16 February 2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers
 EC MEMO/15/4779 (22 April 2015): “If the result of the (Member States’) vote is “No opinion”, the Commission is required by the GMO legal framework and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights to adopt a decision on the application so, in practice, has little choice but to give the authorization.“
 As the European Commission confirmed itself previously, “Articles 7 and 19 of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 […] require the Commission to take a final decision” on pending import applications for GM food and feed. Inaction is suable, and the European Court of Justice already ruled in 2013 (Pioneer v. Commission) that the European Commission was failing to fulfil related obligations in the GM authorization process. In January of 2016 the European Ombudsman came to a similar conclusion (see our press release here).