Saturday

28th Jan 2023

EU receives anti-GMO petition amid raging legal battle

Environmental groups Greenpeace and Avaaz have handed the European Commission a petition with the signatures of over one million EU citizens, calling for a ban on GMO crops until a new scientific body is set up to assess their impact. Behind the scenes however, a battle is raging over the document's eligibility under the EU's new citizens' initiative procedure (ECI).

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso refused to receive the document on Thursday (9 December), sending the EU's health commissioner John Dalli instead. Mr Dalli welcomed the petition, but warned that the ECI had not been fully set up yet, drawing a question mark over the anti-GMO document.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Commissioner Dalli speaks to the press after receiving the petition (Photo: Greenpeace)

"We have agreed to receive the petition today but at this point I can't commit on action taken by the commission," said Mr Dalli.

Greenpeace Europe chief Jorgo Riss said the commission could ill afford to ignore the document, born out of the commission's decision in March to grant the first EU GM cultivation approval in 12 years for the 'Amflora' potato.

"Over a million people across Europe have set the EU a democratic test - will the EU address the real concern people have about GM crops and food, or will it side with the chemical industry lobbyists controlling GM technology?" said Mr Riss.

"This is the first time that EU citizens have exercised their right and the commission has no political reason to reject the initiative," he added.

In an attempt to grant EU citizens a greater say over EU affairs, drafters of the Lisbon Treaty included a 'European citizens' initiative', under which one million citizens could petition the commission to take action in a particular area.

With the new rulebook in place since 1 December 2009, Greenpeace set about collecting the signatures earlier this year after EU approval for the GMO potato caused widespread alarm. The European Parliament and member states have yet to formally agree EU legislation setting up on the petition procedure however, leading the commission to brandish the anti-GMO initiative as illegitimate.

"Strictly speaking, they would have to do it all over again," commission administration spokesman Michael Mann told this website last month. "The Greenpeace view that the petition counts as the Lisbon Treaty is in place doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny."

The environmental group says an independent legal assessment supports their position.

"The omission by the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the implementing provisions ... does not affect the EU citizens to exercise their right," Professor Ludwig Kramer of ClientEarth concluded in an October legal opinion commissioned by Greenpeace.

MEPs reached an agreement with member states on Monday evening over the future shape of the citizens' initiative, with parliament securing a number of amendments to make the procedure more user-friendly for EU citizens.

The deal allows the full plenary of MEPs to vote on the package next week. Following member states approval, national governments will then have one year to transpose it into national law, meaning an official start date of late 2011, at the earliest.

Under the draft rules, the commission now has three months to decide whether to take any action following the Greenpeace petition. The EU institution is entitled to come forward with new legislative proposals but may also decide to do nothing.

In an attempt to break the current deadlock on GMOs, strongly supported by countries such as the Netherlands but banned in other member states such as Austria, the commission came forward with plans in July to partially re-nationalise GMO authorisation.

But the proposals have found little support among member states, leaving Europe as divided as ever over the controversial subject.

Analysis

Why is petrostate UAE going all in on green hydrogen?

The United Arab Emirates announced its ambition to become one of the world's premier trading hubs for green hydrogen. Interesting, to say the least, for a country that relies on the sale of fossil fuels for its prosperity.

Analysis

Why is petrostate UAE going all in on green hydrogen?

The United Arab Emirates announced its ambition to become one of the world's premier trading hubs for green hydrogen. Interesting, to say the least, for a country that relies on the sale of fossil fuels for its prosperity.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us