Thursday

29th Sep 2022

Food shortage fears prompts call to de-regulate GMOs in EU

  • The EU Commission is expected to present its proposal on new genomic techniques early next year (Photo: M Shields Photography)
Listen to article

Climate change, food insecurity and seasonal shortages have triggered calls to loosen regulation for genetically-modified food and seed technologies in the EU.

"We can help farmers by using innovation," the Czech agriculture minister Zdeněk Nekula, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Council presidency, said in a press conference on Friday (16 September).

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

Nekula said new so-called genomic techniques can help make crops more resilient to drought, frost, diseases and pests.

"These solutions aren't expensive and they don't require investment worth billions. We only need to modify the old legislative framework, [to support] regulating modern breeding techniques," he added.

"We need modern rules that will make sure that our production is safe and environmentally sustainable," he said, calling current genetically-modified organism (GMO) rules a "limitation" for European farmers that are causing a brain drain to countries outside of the bloc.

The EU, he said, has a responsibility not only to feed its own people, but also as a world leader.

The EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said that the commission is ready to present a new proposal early next year — as previously announced in their Farm to Fork strategy.

"The commission proposal will be based on a solid impact assessment. We need to be careful. We must [ensure] no risk for public health, the environment [and] also for the economic interests of the farmers," he said.

"We must find the balance," Wojciechowski said — adding that organic farming should be protected from the potential consequences of the new mutations.

However, a 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice emphasised similarities in the potential risks of this new generation of GMOs and their predecessors. It argued that exempting new techniques from the current EU regulation "would compromise the objective of protection" and "fail to respect the precautionary principle".

Current legislation imposes a pre-market authorisation on any GMO sold to consumers, following an assessment of risks for human health and the environment. The rules also make them subject to traceability, labelling, and monitoring obligations.

However, according to a commission study from April, the current regulation is not "fit for purpose" for new genomic techniques and needs to be amended to contribute to sustainable food systems.

Environmental groups have raised concerns over the upcoming commission proposal, warning that it could mean lowering standards for risk assessment and monitoring, or even forgo labelling requirements.

Last year, EUobserver revealed how the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) uncovered new lobbying techniques aimed at deregulating new GMOs via climate-friendly narratives.

Revealed: the new lobbying effort to deregulate GMOs

An investigation by Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered how new lobbying strategies, aimed at deregulating modern genetic techniques are driven by academic and biotech research institutes with corporate interests - utilising 'climate-friendly' narratives.

Juncker's rules on GMOs going nowhere soon

Commission president Juncker promised in 2016 that rules relating to the approval of pesticides like glyphosate would be changed, but member states refuse to play ball.

Deregulation of new GMO crops: science or business?

Academics and biotech research organisations with corporate interests have been leading the lobby campaign to deregulate new genomic techniques in the EU — using 'climate-friendly' and 'science-based' narratives, according to a report.

EU sanctions hamstrung by threat to food security

The EU has lifted some restrictions on the trade and financing of Russian coal and chemical to avoid an energy and food security crisis in poorer countries, but the upcoming ban on oil may have an even deeper impact.

News in Brief

  1. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  2. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  3. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  4. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  5. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  6. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  7. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  8. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan
  2. Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy
  3. How US tech giants play EU states off against each other
  4. Deregulation of new GMO crops: science or business?
  5. The European shipping giants plying Putin's fossil-fuels trade
  6. Russian ideologue and caviar on latest EU blacklist
  7. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  8. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us