On 16th March, the potential deregulation of new GMOs in the EU was discussed during the Council meeting of environment ministers.
The point was brought forward by the Austrian environment minister Leonore Gewessler. This discussion is very timely as the European Commission is expected to make a proposal for new rules concerning new GMOs, or “New Genomic Techniques” on June 9. This proposal could potentially weaken EU rules on the mandatory safety assessments and labelling of new GMOs.
Madeleine Coste, policy officer at Slow Food Europe, comments: “The statements made by these ministers in support of Austria’s position are clear warnings to the Commission that the EU must not deregulate new GMOs We welcome these bold statements, which show these national policy-makers are listening to the concerns of their citizens, to scientists, and to those farmers who wish to transition to truly sustainable farming, not to the agro-chemical lobby.”
The Austrian position supported by the environment, health, and agriculture ministers, detailed in this public note, is clear: “the three pillars of the precautionary principle, scientific risk assessment and mandatory labelling must also apply to new genetic engineering methods”. The points reflect Slow Food’s position, as we have been calling for the EU to keep new GMOs strictly regulated, in order to guarantee safety and the freedom of choice for farmers and consumers.
During the council meeting, the Austrian’s position was supported by Hungary, Germany, Luxemburg, Slovenia, Slovakia and Cyprus who disagree with the Commission’s approach. Germany and Hungary highlighted the crucial importance of the “precautionary principle”, while Cyprus asked the Commission to invest in the areas of detection and biosafety of new GM products to evaluate their potential impact on human health and the environment.
Amongst others, Slow Food welcomes the call made by Luxembourg for “comprehensive labelling” of new GMOs to remain mandatory to allow consumers to make an informed choice about their food.
The German minister insisted on the importance of protecting EU citizens’ freedom of choice and ensuring the safe coexistence of different faming systems.
Some Ministers, like Hungary’s, criticized the current assumption-based impact assessment published by the European Commission and requested a new one, based on data and scientifically sound methods.
Irreversible damage to ecosystems and biodiversity could indeed arise if new GMOs would happen to be deregulated, as no measures could be taken against the uncontrolled spread of new GM organisms in the environment. Agriculture and food production relying on GMO-free sources, such as the organic sector, could no longer be protected from contamination.
We hope the Commission hears these calls from our environment ministers, and rolls back its plans for this new proposal, currently planned for June 9. In the meantime, Slow Food will continue to make its voice heard: as it was pointed out by several ministers during the council, civil society’s participation is key in policymaking processes.