On February 7, a coalition of 50+ organisations from 17 EU member states today delivered a petition to the European Commission demanding to keep the new generation of genetically modified organisms ‘regulated and labelled’. The petition ran from April to November 2022 and received 420.000 signatures.
New genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like CRISPR/CAS, are not technically different from the “old” ones, since they also involve altering the genetic material of plants, animals, and microorganisms in laboratories. They are made via “gene scissors” which change DNA in specific locations, instead of introducing DNA from a different species. Similarly to older GMO techniques, new GMOs:
- alter the plant’s DNA
- cause changes that do not occur naturally
- pose risks to the environment & our health
Right now, in the European Union, all types of genetically modified organisms (old and new) must be clearly risk-assessed, traceable and labelled as GMOs. This allows farmers, supermarkets and consumers to choose what food they produce, sell and buy, and ensure only safe foods are put on the market.
European Commission-president Ursula Von der Leyen announced in her last state of Union speech as well as in the 2023 Work programme that a legislative proposal on what is being called ‘new genomic techniques’ (NGTs) would be launched. This proposal is expected to be announced on June 7th and will exclude new GMOs, from the approval processes of the existing EU GMO legislation. This would mean that all EU citizens would lose their right to know if their food has been genetically modified or not.
“Excluding new GMOs would prevent farmers, food producers, retailers, and citizens from opting for GM-free choices. We have the right to decide what we eat and grow in our fields!” said Clara Behr, Head of Policy and Public Relations the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International.
As shown by a 2021 Ipsos opinion poll, there is overwhelming support from EU-citizens and independent scientists to keep the new generation of GM-products regulated with requirements around biosafety-assessment, traceability and labelling, in line with the precautionary principle.
Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The European Commission seems ready to gamble with our food, but the European Court of Justice’s 2018 ruling make it clear that the so-called ‘new genomic techniques’ are in fact GMOs and should remain regulated under the current GMO law. European decision makers must echo the ECJ ruling and uphold mandatory safety checks, transparency and labelling for all GMOs to protect consumers and farmers’ right to choose what they eat and grow.”
Madeleine Coste, policy officer at Slow Food Europe said: “There is no scientific consensus on the safety of these new products. So, it makes common and scientific sense that all GMOs undergo a strict safety evaluation and be labelled as genetically modified, to ensure transparency throughout the whole supply chain for citizens and farmers. Also, more research must be carried out on the environmental, biodiversity and health risks of new GMOs, on their socio-economic impacts for farmers and the food system, and on the development of detection methods.”
Nina Holland, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said: “A few big chemical and seed corporations are pushing the EU to allow new GMOs onto the market unchecked. These companies have been lobbying the European Commission for years to exclude new GMOs from the EU-regulation, making unsubstantiated claims on the supposed benefits for sustainability. But as they also hold patents on the seeds engineered with these techniques, their true motivation remains to increase their profits.”
European decision makers need to promote and support proven solutions for a sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, such as agroecological practices and organic farming, and to protect the freedom of breeders to operate without being restricted by the far-reaching scope of patents on seeds produced with new GMOs.
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