Thursday

15th Nov 2018

Brussels wants EU states to share flak for GMO approvals

  • The EU commission is often blamed for approving GMOs. It wants national governments to share in that blame (Photo: Jakob Huber/Campact)

The European Commission wants to end the practice of national governments hiding behind the commission when controversial decisions, like authorising genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are taken.

On Tuesday (14 February), the commission proposed changes to the so-called comitology procedure, little-known outside Brussels but responsible for more than half of the legal acts the EU adopts each year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Juncker wants to get rid of the situation in which member states can blame the commission for approving GMOs

The change is a reaction to the situation that arises whenever the commission decides on the authorisation of GMOs.

GMOs need approval by a Brussels-based committee that consists of representatives of member states.

However, those states have very different attitudes towards GMOs, and each time roughly one-third of states votes in favour, one-third against, and one-third abstains.

In 2013, the European Court of Justice ruled that in such a case of no opinion, the commission should take the decision.

The same soap opera happened in 2016, when the controversial weed-killer glyphosate was up for renewal, to the chagrin of commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

“It is not right that when EU countries cannot decide among themselves whether or not to ban the use of glyphosate in herbicides, the Commission is forced by Parliament and Council to take a decision,” said Juncker last September.

Council is the EU institution where national governments meet.

“So we will change those rules – because that is not democracy,” said Juncker.

One other probably motive is that the commission is sick of having to approve GMOs and serve as scapegoat.

Or, put in the commission's words, it thinks that “due to the particular sensitivity of the issues at stake, member states should, in these specific situations, also assume their responsibilities in the decision-making process to a greater extent”.

The commission proposes that abstentions are no longer counted towards calculating a qualified majority, which would reduce the number of no opinions.

“The current rules do not incentivise member states to vote in favour or against the draft implementing act,” the commission said in its statement explaining the proposal.

The commission also suggested the way member states voted should be made public, and that the commission should have the right to refer cases to the ministerial level, so that national ministers will have to decide.

The proposal needs to be approved by the EU parliament and national governments before it can become law.

Especially the latter will be challenging.

Hot potato

In 2015, one diplomat from an anti-GMO country said that the current system was “absolutely marvellous”.

“I've always wondered how we managed to get the commission to agree to such a system in the first place. It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Now they are sick and tired of the blame every time,” he said.

“It's the proverbial hot potato. Any volunteers for a hot potato?”, the source said, suggesting that member states would likely not accept to take responsibility.

Another commission attempt to solve the situation so far has not yet been successful.

In April 2015, the EU commission proposed to give member states the power to opt-out from EU-approved GMOs, hoping that this would break the GMO deadlock.

The European Parliament called on the commission to withdraw the proposal, while the file has been stuck in the legislative pipeline in Council.

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

EU fails to reach weed-killer deal, again

Painful process to agree on use of glyphosate, a weed-killing chemical linked to a cancer scare, could end up with EU Commission taking unilateral action.

Commission and council dig in on GMO opt-outs

The European Commission and the EU's national governments pass each other the buck on who should move first on a heavily-criticised proposal on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.

News in Brief

  1. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  2. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  3. Greece to investigate former PM's bank accounts
  4. EU threatens to retaliate if US introduces auto tariffs
  5. Frontex: Spain now main destination for migrants
  6. German AfD funding scandal widens
  7. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  8. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  2. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  3. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  4. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  5. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  6. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  7. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  8. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us