Comments on the European Parliament’s debate on the proposal to “nationalise” cultivation of GM crops
5 July 2011
The European Parliament debate on the cultivation of GM crops highlights how difficult it is to give more power to the Member States to opt-out of planting products whilst preserving a workable science-based decision-making system at an EU level.
EuropaBio supports the Barroso vision in which, after a comprehensive EU-level safety assessment, Member States should be free to choose to cultivate GM crops at their own pace. But the Parliament’s debate has highlighted the legal problems connected with banning products that have been proven safe. EuropaBio supports policymaking based on the scientific evidence of GM crops’ safety. The very strict authorization process at the EU level guarantees that GM crops are only allowed for cultivation if, after thorough assessment, their safety is demonstrated. With almost 20 years of safety assessments and more than 2 trillion meals with GM ingredients consumed without one substantiated food issue, it is reasonable to have confidence that this technology has been demonstrated to be safe.
According to Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio’s Director of Green Biotechnology Europe, “The debate reveals very clearly how politicised science has become in European policymaking. If Member States can opt-out of a product approval system simply because of political preference, without any scientific reasoning, the result will be more uncertainty and less choice for farmers. It is disappointing to see how such political voting is making Europe into a science museum rather than an economic motor driven by innovation, particularly at a time when the whole world needs to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.”
Europe continues to miss out on the economic benefits GM crops present by delaying cultivation approvals. A recent study (Park, et al. 2011) revealed that EU farmers are missing out on an additional €440-930 million each year by not being able to choose and plant the available GM crops. “As they contemplate the future challenges of globalisation, climate change, food insecurity and shortages of natural resources, many decision-makers continue to deny farmers the ability to use cutting edge technologies, already available to their counterparts outside the EU, to help them to deal with these same challenges”, said du Marchie Sarvaas.
The European Parliament is scheduled to vote tomorrow in its first reading of the European Commission’s proposal. Their vote will be one of the first steps in the process, which will be followed by a discussion among Member State governments.
- The Impact of the EU regulatory constraint of transgenic crops on farm income (Park et al, 2011)
- GM crops: Reaping the benefits, but not in Europe(May 2011)
- GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2009. (Brookes and Barfoot, 2011)