Mar. 5, 2021
The European Commission broke its own rules and is allowing companies that stand to profit from the weakening of GMO safety rules to help rewrite them, an investigation by Friends of the Earth Europe has found.
The European Commission’s health division (DG SANTE) is due to publish imminently the findings of a consultation on the future of GMOs in the EU. The outcomes will determine how a new wave of GMOs, known as new genomic techniques, or new plant breeding techniques, will be regulated. Crops grown using these methods are currently regulated under EU GMO safety and labelling laws.
Friends of the Earth Europe’s analysis reveals that DG SANTE officials ignored guidelines to produce a result that would support deregulating new GMOs. This makes it more likely new GMOs will be exempted from safety checks and labelling requirements.
The analysis shows that, in contradiction with its own guidelines on balance and transparency in consultations, DG SANTE:
* Sought a disproportionately large majority of inputs (74%) from agri-industry bodies – a group in favour of deregulation. It also allowed a number of biotech companies which hold patents on new GMOs to have their views represented multiple times via umbrella organisations.
* Included more than twice as many questions about potential benefits of new GMOs than about potential risks.
* Failed to observe basic transparency protocols by not publishing responses to the consultation in advance of its publication.
The Commission is due to publish the results of the study in April. Ahead of the publication, Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on DG SANTE to immediately publish the consultation responses, and to commit to discount the results of this flawed process in future decisions about the whether new genomic techniques are exempt from GMO safety laws.
Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The European Commission promised a strategy sustainable food system with its Farm to Fork strategy, but it seems to be trying to let in a new generation of GM crops onto our fields and plates without safety checks and labelling. It let the agri industry dominate responses to a key study on the future of how GMOs should be regulated, and refuses to observe basic transparency standards by publishing the submissions.
“The European Commission needs to clean up the mess by publishing contributions to the study like it normally would, and recognise that it was flawed in its scope and set-up, and so cannot be used to justify any changes in GMO safety laws.”
Rudolf Anschober, the Austrian minister for health and consumer protection (Greens), made a strong statement that supports the position of Friends of the Earth Europe and other NGOs on new GM techniques (translation from German by Deepl):
"The ECJ has already clarified in 2018 that the so-called "new genetic engineering" also falls under the regulatory framework of genetic engineering. Therefore, the same approval procedure with a comprehensive risk assessment and monitoring of long-term effects applies to it.
"My position is that there must be no genetic engineering through the back door. The three pillars of the precautionary principle, scientific risk assessment and compulsory labelling also apply to so-called new genetic engineering. We aggressively defend this view in all discussions at EU level and I see no reason to deviate from it in the future."