Sign to Keep New GMOs Strictly Regulated
420,000 signatures against the deregulation of new GMOs!
The European Commission opened the debate again on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with its recent public consultation on a potential new legal framework for new GMOs excluding them from the current approval processes and risks assessments.
This campaign closed on November 20
Thanks to everyone for helping us to collect more than 420,000 signatures!
Big chemical and seed corporations want to push new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) onto the market, forcing genetically modified food onto our fields and plates without us knowing about it.
These companies have been lobbying the European Commission for years to exclude new GMOs from the European GMO regulation, making unsubstantiated claims on the supposed benefits for sustainability, pesticide reduction and climate. But as they also hold patents on the seeds engineered with these techniques, their true motivation remains to increase their profits. Such an industry takeover of seeds would seriously threaten farmers’ seed autonomy and agricultural biodiversity as a whole.
Now the European Commission plans to exclude new GMOs, which they call new genomic techniques (NGTs), from the approval processes of the existing EU GMO legislation. Under the current rules, old and new GMOs are subjected to EU authorisation, which ensures risk assessment for human health and the environment, transparency for producers and farmers, and clear labelling for consumers. 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!
- New GMOs are GMOs and should be regulated as such, in line with the precautionary principle. All GMOs must undergo a strict safety evaluation and be labelled as genetically modified, to ensure transparency throughout the whole supply chain for citizens and farmers.
- 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.
- Governments and EU 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 .
MAIN DEMAND: We urge our governments and European decision makers to take a strong stand against any attempts to exclude new GMOs from the existing EU GMO legislation and to uphold mandatory safety checks, transparency and labelling for all GMOs to guarantee the safety of our food, as well as to protect nature, the environment and our freedom of choice.
A Bit of Context
Under the current European regulation, new GMOs (obtained with new techniques of genetic modification such as CRISPR) are subject to the EU GMO rules, which means they must be clearly risk-assessed, labelled and traceable throughout the whole food chain.
This positive status quo is being jeopardized by agri-food lobbies and corporations, who want the EU to exclude new GMOs from the current GMO rules, claiming that they can help food systems become “sustainable”. This would meand that they would no longer be traceable, risk-assessed nor labelled.
In other words, farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers would no longer be able to reject GM products and opt for GM-free choices. Unfortunately, the European Commission is falling into the trap, and wants to make it easier for the agro-biotechnology industry to develop and commercialize new GMOs!
The European Commission plans to submit a proposal to regulate new GMOs (“new genomic techniques”) in the coming months. In 2020, they published a study that showed the EU Commission’s clear desire to explore the possibility of deregulating new GMOs. Several European countries also seem to be in favor of opening that door.
In view of the European Commission’s upcoming proposal, we call on every EU citizen to sign our petition addressed to national policy makers and Members of the European Parliament, who can stop the deregulation of new GMOs in Europe.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, scroll down to read our FAQ!
Also, if you have not done so yet, listen to our podcast “What’s Going On with New GMOs in Europe?”, and learn more about what they are, how they differ from old GMOs and what the EU latest developments are on the matter.
We Choose GMO Free!
You too? Sign the petition!
What are the objectives of the petition? Why is it being launched now?
The European Union is preparing to decide on whether and how to deregulate a new generation of genetically modified organisms (new GMOs), yet most Europeans haven’t even heard about new GMOs so far. The petition aims to:
- Show political decision makers that citizens do not wish to see the deregulation of new GMOs.
- Raise awareness on the industry’s plans to sneak new GMOs onto our plates and fields without us even knowing about it.
Before summer, the EU Commission is running a three-month consultation before presenting its idea on how to deregulate the new generation of GMO. We need to make our voices heard for the upcoming public and political debate!
Why should I sign?
Each signature matters. Politically, the ministers have the power to reject or change new draft laws from the EU Commission. If more ministers call for keeping new GMO regulated as GMO, the EU Commission’s plans to deregulate new GMO won’t materialise. The more citizens’ signatures a country collects, the more reasons it gives a minister to stand up for our right to know what we eat and grow.
What can the minister/ national decision maker do?
European rules are applied in all countries of the European Union. National authorities are responsible for making sure EU food safety rules are followed, for example ensuring that imported food and feed do not contain non-authorised GMOs, as it is the case for all new GMOs. Politically, the ministers have the power to reject or change new draft laws from the EU Commission. If more ministers call for keeping new GMO regulated as GMO, the EU Commission’s plan to deregulate new GMO won’t materialise.
Old GMOs|New GMOs - Definitions
What are ‘old’ GMOs?
Corporations promoted the first wave of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with their speculative claims that they would feed the world and reduce the use of toxic chemicals. In reality, wherever they have been used GMOs made matters worse. Most GMOs in use today are engineered into one of two types of plants – one type that stays alive after being sprayed with weedkillers, such as the herbicide glyphosate; the other type producing chemicals that are toxic to insects. Some GMOs have both of these characteristics.
Soybeans, corn, rapeseed and cotton are the crops most commonly subject to these genetic changes. Far from reducing the application of toxic chemicals, the use of GMOs has actually increased their use. In Europe, GMOs have so far been largely rejected by both public and decision-makers, with one variety of GM corn currently the only GMO that is cultivated commercially in a few countries. Nineteen EU countries explicitly decided against growing that GM corn. However, an army of corporate lobbyists has been working full-time on dismantling the EU’s GMO regulations for many years.
What are ‘new’ GMOs?
The European Commission uses “new genomic techniques” (NGTs) to refer to genetic engineering. The biotechnology industry has invented a variety of alternative terms to GMOs, such as “new breeding techniques” or “precision breeding”, to sow confusion as their lobbyists make their case to decision-makers that various genetic engineering processes and products do not need to be subject to existing GMO regulations.
NGTs are not fundamentally different from processes of genetic modification – or as their proponents now prefer to call it, “gene editing”. The processes have essentially stayed the same for the last thirty years. What has changed is that genetic modification is now using a series of new techniques that have reduced the cost of the process whereby genetic material is transferred within the same or closely related species. The most famous of these techniques, which earned its pioneers a Nobel Prize and millions of Euros in patent rights, is known as CRISPR/Cas9. The biotech industry prefers people to think that they are trying to release organisms into the fields that are simply new breeds, rather than merely new types of the same old GMOs.
Massed ranks of corporate-funded lobbyists are now attempting to influence EU policy-makers by claiming that new GMOs will help humanity adapt to climate change and fix “broken” food systems. Yet already the “new” GM plants that global corporations have in the pipeline are engineered to be tolerant to the herbicides on which the same corporations have a monopoly. Their cultivation would necessarily increase the presence of pesticide residues in the soil and water, as well as in our food.
Organisms with engineered gene drives
Also enabled by new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 are so-called “gene drives”. This type of genetic engineering enables humans to spread selected new genes throughout wild populations forcing the inheritance of newly introduced genes to all offspring of a particular species. One of its possible goals can be to make the offspring infertile or reduce the survival chances of the affected species. Therefore, in the future gene drives may serve as new means to control or decimate so-called pests in agriculture.
This technology – once released – is uncontrollable and carries high risks for ecosystems, food webs and food security: in the most extreme case, a gene drive organism could spread at an exponential rate, would replace the entire wild population with genetically modified organisms or drive an entire species into extinction. There is a significant risk that “extinction genes” forced by gene drives could pass into closely related species and thus wipe out entire groups of species with keystone functions in an ecosystem, such as pollination. More than 200 global food movement leaders and organizations representing hundreds of millions of farmers and food workers have set out their opposition to gene drive organisms in a letter demanding a moratorium on their release.
While new GMO proponents attempt to popularise terms like “genetic scissors”, which imply that the new genetic engineering techniques are more precise than those used with old GMOs, the reality is that both CRISPR and other new techniques are far from precise, as they generate a range of “off-target” effects on other parts of the genome to those that are being targeted, with as-yet-unknown risks to the health of the engineered organisms and to those, including humans, who might consume them.
New GMOs are also being used as part of what their proponents call “nature-based solutions”, along with the claim that the use of this biotechnology is as natural as traditional plant breeding. Using this analogy is like saying that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is natural because human civilization has used fires.
New GMOs risks
What are the risks of producing new GMOs?
- They are tied to the use of toxic chemicals affecting human, animal and environmental health
- They imply further intensifying monoculture and industrial agriculture
- They threaten the food sovereignty of farmers and fisherfolk
- There are unknown risks from unintended “off-target” effects of genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9
- They threaten biodiversity
- They threaten food security
- They fuel the already existing monopolisation and concentration of the seed market
- They threaten traditional seed varieties and the cultural heritage of local communities
- There is not enough information about a potential uncontrolled spread of engineered traits to agroecological and other GMO-free ecosystems
- Gene drive organisms could wipe out whole species and potentially wipe out entire groups of species with keystone functions in an ecosystem, such as pollination.
Why call for more research on new GMO?
So far only 1.8 %(??) of European research money on biotechnology is actually spent on identifying and developing testing methods for new GMO and on looking at potential risks caused by new GMO. If you don’t look, you can’t find a risk. Taxpayers money is used to develop new GMO, controlled by a handful of corporations, but not to check and avoid potential risks for nature and humans. This is biased and should be corrected now.
Why should they go through safety tests?
While new GMOs’ novelty lies on targeting specific regions of the plants and animals’ DNA e more precisely, the implications for potential health and environment impacts are not yet fully understood and the end results cannot be predicted.This unpredictability, demonstrated by multiple studies and known as ‘of’ or ‘on-target effects’,., was already one of the main arguments for the strict regulation originally introduced for GMOs and this risk remains with the new generation. The ability to simultaneously change multiple genes with similar sequences (whether intentionally or unintentionally) poses new challenges for assessing the risks as it can result in patterns of genetic change that are highly unlikely to arise naturally (i.e. by random mutation)) or by using older techniques. This means a thorough understanding of the potential health and environmental impacts is necessary.’
New GMOs and GMOs rules
What is the current legal status of New GMO?
In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the existing EU GMO safety law applies to the new generation of GMOs. This means they must face safety checks, comply with the authorisation processes and labelling, and must be authorised as a GMO seed, if cultivated or as food and feed, if imported.
Why does the European Commission want to deregulate new GMOs?
For decades, farmers and citizens have been told that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can help fight the effects of climate change on agriculture. According to the agricultural biotechnology industry, genetically engineering the genes of plants, animals, and other living organisms, will revolutionise the way agriculture is being done, and will allow farmers to continue growing crops given new traits to defend themselves against the pressures of climate change. A new generation of GMOs are being developed and risk making their way onto our plates. These “new GMOs” are presented by the industry as simply being modern plant breeding techniques but this is a gross misrepresentation. The European Commission is falling into the trap, and wants to make it easier for the agro-biotechnology industry to develop and commercialise new GMOs!
Will deregulating new GMOs make the EU’s food system sustainable?
In a report published in April 2020, the European Commission claims new GMOs could contribute to sustainability and should therefore be exempt from the EU’s GMO laws. However, this claim is not substantiated and relies on unverifiable promises by GMO developers and associated lobby groups. Moreover, GM agriculture fosters the development of intensive monocultures, and in no way addresses the root causes of unsustainable food systems. Slow Food has a long-standing position against GMOs due to the risks they present to biodiversity, the threats they pose to small-scale farmers’ livelihoods, and to the fact that they are incompatible with an agricultural system based on agroecology.
Why are we calling to keep new GMO regulated as GMO?
Despite the European Court of Justice ruling of July 2018 confirming new GMOs are covered by the existing EU GMO regulation, a multi-year campaign by big agribusiness is leading the EU Commission to get rid of labelling rules and lower safety checks. But having these processes in place means consumers can retain their right to take well-informed decisions about the food they eat and farmers, breeders and food processors can tell whether a product is a GMO or contains GM ingredients. We do not call for a ban of new GMOs: we simply ask that new GMOs remain regulated and that any GM cultivation or import o food and feed to follow existing EU rules.
Why shall new GMO be kept labelled?
All food containing GMO ingredients must be labelled in the European Union. Labelling gives consumers a right to take a well informed decision on what they want to eat and for which food they want to spend their money on. We call to maintain this requirement for all new GMOs.
More than 60 different GMO food and feed can be imported to the EU. But due to consumers rejection, supermarket phased out the sold of food containing GMO ingredients around 20 years ago. Having no labelling requirements for new GMOs means that the administrative and economic burden of ensuring labelling for organic or GMO-free food would fall onto those who don’t want to use GMO in the first place, while corporations selling GMO seeds will make huge profits without any further requirements. This is deeply unfair.
Will I be able to continue choosing food free of GMOs if they are deregulated?
In 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that new GMOs fall under the scope of the EU’s GMO legislation of 2001 following the precautionary principle. This means that they are subject to EU authorization, to risk assessment, GMO labelling and traceability to guarantee farmers, food producers and consumers the right to know whether a food product contains GM organisms or not. Yet now the European Commission wants to change the law to exclude some GMOs from the EU’s GMO regulations, meaning that these rules would no longer apply and labelling of new GMOs may no longer be mandatory. This would mean that farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers can no longer reject GM products and opt for GM-free choices.
- Friends of the Earth, Editing the Truth: Genome editing is not a solution to climate change, October 2021
- Joint Response by NGOs and farmer and business associations to the Commission’s document on new GMOs, September 2021
- Testbiotech, EU Commission Spreading Misinformation, July 2021
- ETC Group, Hijacking Food Systems: TechnoFixe Takeover at the UN Food System Summit, July 2021
- Slow Food, The European Commission’s Working Document on “New Genomic Techniques”, June 2021
- Friends of the Earth, Open letter: regulate new GMOs, March 2021
- Corporate Europe Observatory, Derailing EU rules on new GMOs: CRISPR-Files expose lobbying tactics to deregulate new GMOs, March 2021
- Friends of the Earth, Generation unknown: exposing the truth behind the new generation of GMOs, January 2021
- Testbiotech, Why New Genetic Engineering needs to be regulated, October 2020
- Kawall, K., Cotter, J. & Then, C. Broadening the GMO risk assessment in the EU for genome editing technologies in agriculture. Environ Sci Eur32, 106 (2020).
- GMWatch, Gene editing: Unexpected outcomes and risks, August 2020
- What is (not) genetic engineering, Testbiotech
- European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), Stop New GMOs, 2017
- IFOAM Organics Europe, What We Do, New GMOs
- Stop Gene Drives!
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