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20th Feb 2019

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Dutch parliament to complain about new GM rules

  • The Netherlands is a big importer of genetically modified soya beans for the European market (Photo: Bailey (and Muppet))

A proposal by the European Commission to give member states the power to ban food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is facing resistance from various corners in Europe.

The Dutch lower house of parliament is expected Tuesday (16 June) to approve sending a letter to commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, laying out its opposition to the plan, which would allow member states to opt out of the use of GM products which have already received an EU-wide stamp of approval.

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One of the driving forces behind the letter is centre-right Liberal MP Bart de Liefde.

“When Efsa [the European Food Safety Authority] has said a genetically modified soya bean, for example, is safe for humans, animals, and the environment, then it should be allowed in the entire European Union”, De Liefde told this website.

He said the proposal would reverse the integration of the internal market "by decades".

The 38-year old deputy is a member of the governing Liberal party, which is headed by current Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

In 2014, the party campaigned for the European Parliament elections with the slogan “Europe where necessary”, and advocated for European integration at "several speeds", depending on member states' enthusiasm.

But according to de Liefde, in the GM file, Europe is “very necessary … to prevent the internal market from being cut into bits just because in some countries parliamentary majorities have certain emotional fears” towards genetically modified organisms.

“Fear is a bad counsellor in politics”, said De Liefde.

He said he thinks that the proposal, if adopted, would cause economic damage to the Netherlands, which is a big importer of soya beans – many of which are genetically modified.

The commission's proposal follows years of deadlock in the GM approval process, in which member states fail to reach a clear majority in favour or against.

That has led to a situation where the commission takes the final decision to approve a GMO – making it the subject of criticism by anti-GMO groups.

“With this proposal, the commission is trying to throw this headache file into member states' [laps]”, said the Dutch MP.

“The European treaty is very clear. If there is no majority in favour or against, then the commission has to bite the bullet”, noted De Liefde, adding that if the commission no longer wants that responsibility, it should propose to change the European treaty.

“But then I also have a thing or two I would like to see changed in the treaty.”

EU to return GMO powers to states

The EU commission has proposed giving member states the power to ban the use of GMOs in human and animal food products, but there are already concerns about whether the plans are workable.

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