Europe’s environment ministers are working on a new law about the national ban for GM crops. The movement for a GM free Europe has demanded better rights for regional or national bans for many years. But the current proposal discussed amongst national governments would open the floodgates for GM crops.
First, the proposal gives biotech companies the power to decide whether a national ban is permitted or not. If it decides it is not, the member state that wants to ban a crop has to come up with specific arguments. It is not sure whether those arguments will hold in court.
Second, if this proposal on national bans is agreed, it could give a signal to the European Commission to allow more GM crops to be grown. Whilst a number of countries would indeed ban the GM crops, others will not. The area grown with GM crops in Europe would increase. For the first time we would see herbicide-tolerant GM crops on the field.
Without extra measures, this will endanger our ability to maintain GM-free seeds, food and feed as contamination spreads across boundaries. Mandatory anti-contamination measures are therefore essential, backed up with strict and clear liability.
This proposal is unacceptable. The option in the proposal that gives biotech companies a role in decision of governments to restrict the cultivation of a GM crops should be deleted. Governments should insist with the Commission that GM crops like Pioneer's 1507 maize are not wanted.
Attachment: draft proposal, late March version.
What happened previously:
In February, a record of 19 countries declared to be against the Pioneer 1507 GM maize. Only 5 were in favour, and the rest abstained. Nevertheless Commissioner Borg said the Commission is bound to authorise the maize since even these 19 countries did not represent the qualified majority needed. To be continued!
This would be the first GM maize to be allowed for growing on the field in Europe since 1998. Back then in 1998, it was Monsanto's infamous Bt-maize (MON810), producing its own insecticides. This time it is also a Bt-maize, made by Pioneer, but one that has in addition been made tolerant to a powerful weedkiller (glufosinate-based, like Liberty). This weedkiller is classified as highly toxic by the EU.
There are many problems with this GM maize. Since it produces its own insecticides, it could pose risks to butterflies and moths and there has been no research on its impacts to other beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators. Contrary to EU rules, the required safety assessment linked to the use of the weedkiller has not been done. For more information about Pioneer's maize 1507 read Friends of the Earth Europe's backgrounder here.