Slow Food. Deregulating New Gmos means no freedom of choice and disastrous impacts on farmers and biodiversity

02 Feb 2024 | English

Belgian cooks take side against the deregulation of new GMOs to maintain transparency and the art of cooking 

Slow Food urges EU decision makers to reject the deregulation proposal threatening consumer & farmer rights, culinary integrity and biodiversity.

As MEPs will be asked to vote on the deregulation of the new generation of genetically modified organisms (new GMOs, or so-called “New Genomic Techniques” or NGTs) in the coming days, Slow Food and its network advocate for the maintenance of a regulatory framework which safeguards the interests of consumers, farmers and breeders, culinary professionals, retailers, and the environment.

“Deregulating new GMOs is a false solution to the multiple crises we face across the food system, including the strains faced by farmers”, comments Marta Messa, Slow Food Secretary General. “If we want to transition towards sustainable food systems, we need farmers and citizens to be able to choose and know where their seeds and food are coming from: the proposal of the Commission takes away that right”.

Given the great concerns raised by this proposal, Belgian cooks, including members of the Slow Food Cooks Alliance, signed an open letter to call on Belgian decision-makers to reject this deregulation proposal, as it risks destroying the credibility of the quality of restaurants. As custodians of biodiversity, culinary professionals are worried of the impact that a deregulation of new GMOs will have on the integrity of ingredients, the freedom of choice of their customers and suppliers, and ultimately, on food culture. The letter includes 5 key reasons why new GMOs should not be deregulated, the first being that labeling would not be required, making it impossible for restaurants to “make informed choices in the kitchen” and control what they serve to their customers. The letter was signed by cooks from, among others, restaurants Racines (Ixelles), Horia (Brussels) and Màloma (Schaerbeek).

The justification of the proposed deregulation by the European Commission is to make access to these new GMOs “easier” than under the current EU legislation, as the industry claims they would help achieve sustainable production. However, the proposal, and the report adopted by the European Parliament Environmental Committee in January, is full of shortcomings and empty promises – and is strongly aligned with agribusiness lobby groups. It proposes to remove safety assessments, labeling and traceability of a large majority of new GMOs.

Scientists, including from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), as well as official bodies like the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), emphasize the necessity of case-by-case safety assessments, labeling, and traceability for new GMO. All these checks are removed in the current proposal.

In addition to allowing GM-food to enter our fields and plates without our knowledge, the deregulation proposal will largely favor profits over the environment, consumers and farmers. For instance, many of these new genetic modifications, rather than being engineered for sustainability, prioritize enhancing market value for agribusiness, such as improving appearance. The issue surrounding the patenting of NGTs will also not be resolved under the deregulation – paving the way for the privatization of products by a few multinational corporations and undermining farmers‘ fundamental rights to seeds.

Due to the lack of transparency surrounding the arrival of new GMOs on the market, citizens will lose the choice to buy and consume GM-free food and be assured of the quality of their food. Similarly, chefs and restaurateurs will not be able to guarantee their customers organic or GM-free ingredients.

Slow Food echoes the calls of all cooks, citizens and farmers, who do not want new genetically modified products, and call for a rejection of the proposal for deregulation, in favor of sustainable solutions that maintain the central role of farmers, ensure a healthy and rich diet for everyone, and do not infringe upon the right to know the origin of seeds and the source of food, all while respecting biodiversity and natural resources. The solution that aligns with these goals already exists: agroecology.

Are you a cook? If you want to keep new GMO foods labeled, sign here: https://forms.office.com/e/mFfsxDWXjh

Read more from our policy brief of the Commission proposal on new GMOs.

What’s next:

Following the vote on January 24th by the members of the Environment Committee (ENVI) of the European Parliament to remove the new GMOs from any type of safety checks, labeling requirements and liability processes, the text will have to be voted on by all EU Parliamentarians in plenary session. This vote is expected next week Wednesday 7 February. In parallel, discussions are taking place in the EU Council.

About the Slow Food Cooks Alliance: The Alliance unites cooks and chefs from diverse backgrounds in preserving biodiversity, supporting small-scale producers and educating consumers about fairer and more sustainable food systems. Find out more here.

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