GMO regulations detrimental to crop development and research #research #GMO #GE #crop #agnerds #agnet #agchat

Strauss_etal_gmo_regs_and_biof

Check out page 729+ – article by Strauss et al on the implications of regulations on biofuel crops/development (grasses and woody plants) in US entitled “Far reaching Deleterious Impacts of Regulations on Research & Environmental Studies of Recombinant DNA-modeified Perennial Biofuel Crops in the US”
BioScience
October 2010, Volume 60 No. 9
http://www.cof.orst.edu/coops/tbgrc/publications/Strauss_2010_BioScience.pdf

“…the current legal and regulatory situation places severe constraints on both the ability to develop GE crops at all, and then on the performance of adequate environmental studies to inform regulatory and other social decisions about their use…”  (p. 738).

Strauss etal outline some ways to address the current constraints/problems:

1. focus regulatory requirements on defined risks.
2. use scientific criteria for design of categories for a low-level presence (LLP) system
3. create an early stage LLP management system
4. clarify the role of NEPA and the CBD

According to Strauss etal, “…the regulatory thicket is deep and thorny…”  Resolving issues will require reworking of laws (in US and internationally) or “…a fundamental court precedent that stops the penalization of the GE process” and “enshrining into law the ‘product not process’ principle” (p. 739).

“Solving these problems will require new ways of thinking and strong scientific and political leadership to move us toward a regulatory system that enables, rather than arbitrarily blocks, the use of GE as a tool to accelerate and diversify the breeding of … biofuelcrops.”  (p.739). 

An article from Physorg.com outlines the report by Strauss and colleagues http://www.physorg.com/news205157589.html:

Article excerpt:  “The current environment poses enormous legal risks that can and have cost some companies millions of dollars in civil lawsuits, the scientists said, sometimes for damages that were more of perception and market issues, than of safety or environmental impact.”

Is Organic Food Better for You? Article by Mattern from University of Saskatchewan’s “The Sheaf”

Is Organic Food Better for You? A Critical Look at Organic Claims

 

– Ashleigh Mattern, The Sheaf: Univ. of Saskatchewan Student Newspaper, July 13, 2010.
Full text at http://thesheaf.com/2010/07/is-organic-food-better-for-you/

 

The average North American grocery shopper has only a vague idea of how their food is grown, processed and transported to the supermarket.

 

The agriculture-to-grocery-store process is a complex machine that seems almost like magic: row upon row of shiny fruits and vegetables appear in the store every day in seemingly unending amounts. But it’s not magic, and many consumers are aware of this, and becoming wary of the great agriculture machine.

 

For some, organic foods seem to be the answer. Producers tout organics as the answer to the toxic, mutant fruits and vegetables that crowd the grocery store. They encourage consumers to pay a little more for peace of mind, painting organics as the safer alternative.

 

Organic producers say their food tastes better, is more nutritious, and is better for the environment. But in an effort to be wary of salespeople’s pitches, I decided to get to the roots of claims about organic foods.

 

Price
Initially, one of the biggest barriers for me when considering buying organic foods was the price. To compare what I might spend on an average grocery trip, I took my regular grocery list to an organic market.

 

The biggest surprise for me was the price of milk. My boyfriend and I drink a lot of milk, and so I buy four litres a week. A four-litre jug of organic milk cost a whopping $12.19, compared to the Co-op brand four-litre I usually buy at $3.99.

 

I would have spent about $60 on organics, compared to about $30 on conventional foods. That’s a pretty big price difference, and no small difference for a student, but most people don’t buy all their food organic. Organic fruits and vegetables have the most competitive prices, and the organic lemons were actually 10 cents cheaper.

 

As more organic producers get into the market, the prices will continue to drop, as well. For a fairly well-off family, paying an extra dollar for organic ground beef may seem worth the perceived added benefits. Unfortunately, I had only started my journey into the world of organic food. Soon enough, price was the least of my worries.

 

Nutritious and delicious?
Proponents of organic food say it has more vitamins and nutrients and it tastes better. The taste factor may never be scientifically settled as it is completely subjective, but at least one study has determined the nutritious value of organic foods: they’re no more nutritious than non-organics.

 

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition surveyed over 50,000 published articles about organic food, focusing on 55 studies that met their scientific standards.

 

They found more nitrogen in conventional crops and more phosphorus in organic crops, but concluded that “there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.” There were fewer published studies on livestock, but of the studies they did have, they found no nutritional difference between organics and non-organics.

 

Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, oh my!
There are strict regulations on what foods can be labelled organic. When talking to the owner of an organic market recently, he said “no pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers” can be used, but this simply isn’t true. Organic farmers can’t use synthetic products on their crops, only “natural” products. The seemingly logical conclusion is that any natural pesticide or fertilizers is safer than a synthetic one, but again, this isn’t true.

 

One fertilizer some organic farmers use is manure. What the person selling you organic food won’t tell you is that food grown in a manure-based fertilizer has a higher chance of containing E. coli because the virus thrives in the bellies of cows.

 

The bottom line is that nearly all pesticides are bad for humans, whether they’re natural or synthetic. Luckily, the amount of harm they can do has a direct relation to the amount of pesticide you’re exposed to. The Extension Toxicology Network explains that pesticides decline over time. Residues left on the food after washing and processing break down eventually, and the levels of pesticides and herbicides on the food is “well below legal limits” by the time the food reaches the grocery store. Organic food proponents say there have been no studies showing low levels of pesticides and herbicides do no harm, but this is also not entirely true.

 

Pesticides are anything used to defend against fungi, insects and predators. A little known fact is that most fruits and vegetables produce their own pesticides. A paper written by Bruce Ames, who invented the Ames test to determine whether a compound is carcinogenic, says the average American ingests 1,500 mg of natural pesticides per day, compared to 0.09 mg of synthetic pesticide residues.

 

“The amounts of synthetic pesticide residues in plant foods are insignificant compared to the amount of natural pesticides produced by plants themselves,” the paper says.

 

Touting the claim that the effects of exposure to low levels of pesticides has not been studied, one organic-supporting website suggests that “In the absence of this information, the safest course is not to expose yourself to chemicals designed and proven to kill other forms of life.” Sticking with this strain of logic, should we stop eating all fruits and vegetables? Natural pesticides may not be synthetically designed, but they certainly have been proven to kill other forms of life.

 

Genetically modified foods
As with irradiation, the rejection of genetically modified foods seems to stem from fear and misunderstanding. “People have to understand that all the foods we have right now—have all undergone genetic modification; that’s where you take one cultivar and cross it with another cultivar,” said Dr. Nicholas Low, a professor with the U of S’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources. “We want them to grow fast; we want the tomatoes to grow big- When people talk to me about GM, I don’t think they understand that everything we eat has been modified.”

 

He says the difference between the old fashioned way of crossing cultivars and genetically modifying it by moving genes from one plant to another is that a very specific modification is made. In fact, Low says “These genetically modified foods are safer because we know the genome of these plants.” Basically, no changes happen by accident.

 

Since GM foods can gain genetic materials from other plant species, some consumers and anti-GM groups worry this means allergens might end up in non-allergenic foods, for example, genes from a nut used in grains. In fact, this has been tried: in 1996, the seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred International attempted to use genes from the Brazil nut to make their soybeans hardier.

 

Pioneer dropped the project when the testers pointed out the folly of using a known allergen to enhance other foods.

 

GM foods aren’t developed over night. They go through years of trials and testing guided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. If it’s not fit to be consumed, it won’t be approved.

 

That’s not to say there aren’t risks involved in the use of GM foods. Critics have legitimate concerns about the possibility of GM foods having an impact on biodiversity or the potential effects of horizontal gene transfer, where genes from the modified crops would transfer into wild crops. So far, GM foods aren’t in wide enough use to know if horizontal gene transfer can happen or to say if they have an effect on biodiversity (in fact, at least one scientist believes GM crops might promote biodiversity). But we have to ask ourselves if the potential risks outweigh the known benefits.

 

A complete rejection of genetically modified foods might be a mistake. “GM foods have the potential to solve world hunger and maltnutrition problems and protect the environment,” said Low. “We could use our foods to help to prevent disease rather than having medicine as a the middle man.”

 

Flat-out rejecting GM foods might mean rejecting better nutrition and feeding the world’s growing population. Perhaps the better path is to continue investigating this relatively new science, but tread carefully.
—–
Fresher is better
The Dieticians of Canada and Canada’s Food Guide have no official stance on organics, simply suggesting to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

But organic foods are also not all the proponents make them out to be. It’s not healthier or safer, and if used improperly, natural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are just as dangerous for the environment and humans as synthetic products.

 

The process of bringing organic food to your table is every bit as complicated as it is for conventional foods. The best way to feel better about your food choices is to learn about agriculture and how the food gets from the farm to your local grocery store, not by simply assuming organic food as the better choice.

 

“If you say, ‘I choose to eat organic foods,’ that’s fine,” said Dr. Nicholas Low, “but if you say, ‘I eat organic foods because it’s better for me,’ I have a problem with that.”

 

Next time you’re trying to decide between an organic or conventional food item, you might want to consider your reasons behind the choice a little more carefully.

More on the EU and GM

July 10, 2010 Issue of AgBioView
http://www.agbioworld.org/

EU Effort to End GM Crop Deadlock Meets Resistance

– Christian Spillman, AFP, July 13, 2010

BRUSSELS – The European Commission sought Tuesday to end a deadlock blocking the growth of genetically modified crops in Europe, proposing to give countries the freedom to ban the controversial foods. But the proposal drew immediate protests on both sides of the issue amid deep divisions in Europe over the safety of such food.

“The Commission is not in favour or against GMOs,” said European Health Commissioner John Dalli. “But in today’s world, they are a reality and Europe cannot stand idle and deny itself the political responsibility to take decisions and implement a policy of responsible innovation.”

Europe has fallen behind the rest of the world amid public concerns over the potential effects of GM crops demonised as “frankenfoods” by opponents. With governments unable to reach a consensus on the authorisation of new crops, the commission decided to give individual states the power to prohibit or plant such seeds.

Under the proposed rules, once a new GM crop is authorised, governments would be able to ban them across all or part of their territory for socioeconomic, ethical or moral reasons, Dalli said.

But French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the proposal was “not acceptable” because it did not address the need to improve the authorisation process. “They have proposed a swap, that is not going to work,” Borloo told AFP.

Dalli denied that the proposed rules were aimed at pressuring some governments to end their opposition to new GM crop applications. “I don’t expect countries to change their voting just because we’ve put these considerations,” he said.

Biotech firms are awaiting clearance for the cultivation of four types of genetically modified maize. A maize seed developed by US biotech giant Monsanto, MON 810, is the only crop to have been cleared for commercial cultivation in Europe since 1998.

Six EU states, Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany and Luxembourg, have prohibited MON 810 from their territory but it is grown in Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Slovakia.

However, Monsanto’s MON 810 was grown on fewer than 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) of land in the EU last year, down from almost 107,000 hectares in 2008. A genetically modified potato developed by German group BASF, the Amflora, was given the green light in March but it will only be used for industrial uses for its starch content.

The biotech industry and environmentalist groups slammed the proposal, which has to be adopted by the EU parliament and the European Council. EuropaBio, which represents the industry in Brussels, said the proposed rules “give carte blanche to ban safe and approved GM crops in any country or region regardless of the needs or wishes of their farmers.”

The Green bloc in the European parliament described the proposal as a “dubious bargain” and warning that GM crops posed a contamination threat to other plants. Green EU lawmaker Martin Haeusling said: “The Commission has not been able to overcome the opposition of the member states to GMOs over the years and wants now to trick them into accepting quicker authorisations.”

Opponents of GM food fear they would inevitably contaminate other crops and maintain that is no definitive evidence of their safety. Supporters argue that such crops have higher yields, resist pests and disease better and require less fertiliser and pesticide. They say farmers should be given the freedom to choose whether they want to plant GM crops.

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GMOs: Member States to be Given Full Responsibility on Cultivation In Their Territories

– European Commission, Belgium. July 13, 2010. http://europa.eu

Today the Commission proposed to confer to Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on part or all of their territory. While keeping unchanged the EU’s science-based GM authorisation system, the adopted package consists of a Communication, a new Recommendation on co-existence of GM crops with conventional and/or organic crops and a draft Regulation proposing a change to the GMO legislation.

The new Recommendation on co-existence allows more flexibility to Member States taking into account their local, regional and national conditions when adopting co-existence measures. The proposed regulation amends Directive 2001/18/EC to allow Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.

Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli said: “Last March, the Commission promised to present a comprehensive proposal on our future policy vis- a-vis GM cultivation by the end of the summer. Today we deliver on that promise. The concrete measures adopted today will allow Member States the freedom to decide on GMO cultivation. Experience with GMOs so far shows that Member States need more flexibility to organise the co-existence of GM and other types of crops such as conventional and organic crops.”

The Commissioner added: “Granting genuine freedom on grounds other than those based on a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks also necessitates a change to the current legislation. I stress that, the EU-wide authorisation system, based on solid science, remains fully in place. To conclude: This means that a very thorough safety assessment and a reinforced monitoring system are priorities in GMO cultivation and are therefore being pursued vigorously. The Commission is committed to follow up actions on them before the end of the year.”

As of today, a more flexible approach towards cultivation:

The strict authorisation system already in place, which is based on science, safety and consumer choice, will remain the same.

With the new freedom given to Member States to decide on cultivation, a strong signal is sent to citizens that Europe takes into account their concerns, which may vary from one country to another, regarding GMOs. The new approach aims to achieve the right balance between maintaining an EU authorisation system and the freedom for Member States to decide on GMO cultivation in their territory. The proposal delivers on President Barroso s political guidelines, presented in September 2009. Adding this freedom to the legislative framework for GMOs should enable the authorisation system for GMOs to function effectively. As a first step under existing legislation, today s new Recommendation on guidelines for the development of national co-existence measures replaces the previous recommendation of 2003.

The previous Recommendation made a direct link between the establishment of co-existence measures and the respect of the 0.9% threshold for labelling as GM food, feed or products intended for direct processing. Member States were advised to limit co-existence measures (e.g. length of distances between GM and non-GM fields) to comply with 0.9% GM presence in other crops.

Experience gained over the last years shows that the potential loss of income for non-GM producers, such as organic and sometimes conventional producers, is not limited to exceeding the labelling threshold. In certain cases, the presence of GMOs in certain food products may cause damages to operators who would wish to market them as not containing GMOs.

The non-binding guidelines included in the new Recommendation on co-existence better reflect the possibility provided in the existing legislation (Article 26a of Directive 2001/18/EC) for Member States to adopt measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional and organic crops. This also allows for measures aiming to limit GMO content in conventional food and feed to levels below the labelling threshold of 0.9%. The Recommendation also clarifies that Member States can establish GMO-free area and this new Recommendation provides better guidance to Member States to develop co-existence approaches. The European Co-existence Bureau will continue to develop together with Member States best practices for co-existence as well as technical guidelines on related issues.

Legal certainty for the future:

The proposal for revising Directive 2001/18/EC aims to secure legal certainty for Member States when they decide on GMO cultivation on grounds other than those based on a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks. To this end, the Commission proposes to include a new article (26b), which would be applicable to all GMOs that will be authorised for cultivation in the EU, either under Directive 2001/18/EC or under regulation (EC) N1829/2003. Member States will be able to restrict or prohibit GMO cultivation in part or all of their territory without recourse to the safeguard clause. Their decisions will not need to be authorised by the Commission, but Member States will have to inform other Member States and the Commission one month before the adoption of their measures. The Member States will also have to respect the general principles of the Treaties and the Single Market, and be consistent with the international obligations of the EU.

At the same time, the EU authorisation system, based on scientific assessment of health and environmental risks will be maintained and further improved, thus ensuring the protection of consumers and the functioning of the internal market for GM and non-GM seeds, as well as for GM food and feed.

The legislative proposal will be adopted through co-decision with the European Parliament and the Council.

For more information please see:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm
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Questions and Answers on the EU’s New Approach to the Cultivation of GMOs

– European Commission, Belgium, MEMO/10/325 http://europa.eu/
Why is the Commission adopting this package today and what does it include?
In March 2010, the European Commission announced that it would come back before the summer break with a proposal on how to combine the EU science-based authorisation system with freedom for Member States to decide on the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The package adopted today delivers on this commitment and complies fully with the position set out by President Barroso in the political guidelines he presented in September 2009.

What are co-existence measures and what does the new Recommendation on co-existence change?

The objective of co-existence measures, in areas where GMOs are cultivated, is to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products, preventing the potential economic loss and the impact of traces of GM crops in non-GM crops, such as conventional and organic crops.

Experience gained over the last years shows that Member States need more flexibility to take into consideration their particular local, regional and national conditions when defining measures to organise the cultivation of GM, conventional and organic crops.

The new Recommendation on co-existence recognises that Member States may adopt measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products below the labelling threshold of 0.9%. When co-existence measures are not sufficient to prevent the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional or organic crops, Member States may restrict GMO cultivation in large areas of their territory. Such restriction measures need to be proportionate to the objective pursued (i.e. protection of particular needs of conventional or organic farming).

The Commission published in 2009 the second report on national strategies for coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming. The report shows that 15 Member States adopted legislation on coexistence while three more notified draft legislation.

The European Coexistence Bureau (ECoB) develops together with Member States best practices for co-existence, which take into consideration that Member States need flexibility to take account of their local and regional conditions.

For more information on ECoB: http://ecob.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

What is the current procedure for authorising the cultivation of GMOs?
GMOs are authorised at EU level on a case-by-case basis on the basis of the particular uses defined by the application of the company, after a positive assessment of health and environmental risks. Applications for cultivation of GMOs can be submitted under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 for GM food and feed if those GMOs are to be used as source material in food and feed production. GMOs can also be authorised under the Directive for the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment (Directive 2001/18/EC) for uses other than food/feed. In both cases, the Member States play a significant role, carrying out the initial risk assessment of the GMO for cultivation.

What are the amendments to the current legislation proposed by the Commission?
The proposed amendment provides for the addition of one article to Directive 2001/18/EC, which explicitly allows Member States to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GMOs on their territories. Member States may use any grounds to do so, other than those covered by the health and environmental risk assessment of the EU authorisation process. Therefore, the proposal gives competence to Member States to decide on cultivation.

When the legal amendment enters into force, Member States will be free to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of all or particular GMOs, in parts of or in their entire territory. This amendment will be applicable to all GMOs that have been authorised for cultivation in the EU, being under Directive 2001/18/EC or under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003. According to this proposal Member States are only allowed to adopt measures against the cultivation of GMOs. They are not allowed to adopt measures prohibiting the import and/or the marketing in the EU of authorised GM seeds.

Are any GMOs already cultivated in the EU?
Yes. There is one GM maize MON 810 that is commercially cultivated in the EU. This product s genetic modification aims to protect the crop against a harmful pest – the European corn borer. It was authorised in 1998. A GM starch potato, known as ‘Amflora’ potato, was authorised for cultivation and industrial processing on 2 March 2010. This starch potato has increased amylopectin starch content. The starch is intended for industrial uses, such as production of paper.

What are the GM plants that are authorised in the EU for feed and/or food uses?
Besides cultivation, the placing on the EU market of GMOs and the use of their derived products in the food and feed chain is subject to an EU authorisation. As of today, the list of authorised GMOs includes also: one sugar beet, three soybean, three oilseed-rape, six cotton and 17 maize products.

One of the most recently authorised GMO is the ‘Amflora’ starch potato. As it is the case for conventional starch potatoes, ‘Amflora’ is not intended to be used as food. The by-product of the starch potato (pulp) is authorised as feed. The adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of this potato in food and animal feed is authorised up to a level of 0.9%

The list of authorised GM plants and the precise scope of their authorisation is available in the EU register of GM food and feed, which can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/food/dyna/gm_register/index_en.cfm

Have Member States already prohibited GMO cultivation?
Six Member States (Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany and Luxembourg) adopted safeguard measures and prohibited the cultivation of the GM maize MON810 on their territories. Moreover, Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary have notified to the Commission the prohibition of the cultivation of the Amflora potato. Poland has legislation in place forbidding the marketing of all GM seeds.

Member States could now reconsider their safeguard measures on GMO cultivation, when there is no scientific justification, and rather use the more flexible Recommendation on co-existence adopted today to avoid unintended GMO presence in other crops.

Once the addition proposed today of the relevant article to Directive 2001/18/EC is applicable, Member States will be able to restrict or prohibit GMO cultivation without resorting to the safeguard clause when no new scientific risk is identified.

Are there any other GMOs for cultivation on which the EU could take decision before the legal change is applicable?
There are more than ten requests for authorisation of GMOs for cultivation (or for their renewal), at different stages of the procedure.

Four GMOs are at an advanced stage. They have received a favourable European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion and their authorisation procedure (or renewal of authorisation procedure) is ongoing. The favourable EFSA opinion concerning the renewal of the authorisation of MON810 maize, conferring protection to the plant against certain insects, was adopted in June 2009. There are two other GM maize products – Bt Maize 1507 (filed by Pioneer) and Bt maize Bt 11 (filed by Syngenta) -, which also confer protection to the plant against certain insects. The favourable EFSA opinions were respectively adopted in January 2005 and April 2005 and draft decisions to authorise these two GMOs were voted on 25 February 2009 in the framework of the Regulatory Committee under Directive 2001/18/EC. No qualified majority was obtained. The fourth one is maize NK 603 (filed by Monsanto), which is tolerant to the herbicide RoundUp. EFSA adopted a favourable opinion on this product in June 2009.

From a procedural point of view, the next step for MON810 and NK603 would be the submission of a draft decision to the Standing Committee for Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) (first step of the comitology procedure). Bt 11 and Bt 1507 are in the middle of the Comitology procedure, the next procedural step being the submission of decisions to the Council.

What improvements have been made to the environmental risk assessment of GMOs since the Council s request in December 2008?
The Commission and EFSA, together with the Member States, are working on the particular areas for improvement of the implementation of the GMO legislation, identified by the 2008 Environment Council conclusions.

The update of the EFSA guidelines for the environmental risk assessment is ongoing and covers the specific areas requested by the Council. Given the complexity of the topic, the need to ensure a broad consultation process and the large number of public comments (approximately 500), EFSA is expected to finish the guidelines in November 2010. The Commission will then discuss these guidelines with Member States to give them normative value with the Member States endorsement.

Furthermore, EFSA is engaged in dialogue with Member States and stakeholders, enabling them to contribute to its scientific work. EFSA has created a network of Member State experts to exchange scientific knowledge and experience. EFSA is also considering all Member States comments during the entire risk assessment process.

In addition, EFSA has a comprehensive set of internal mechanisms and working processes to safeguard the independence of the scientific work of its Scientific Committee and Panels, including a comprehensive policy on declarations of interest for its scientific experts. EFSA keeps this policy under regular review, and as encouraged by the Commission, will continue to strengthen the examination of the independence of its experts.

The Commission is analysing how to further reinforce the post-market environmental monitoring of GMO crops, in line with the provisions of the current legislation and the 2008 Environment Council conclusions.

When will the Commission finalise the report on the socio-economic implications of GMOs?
In December 2008, the Council requested the Commission to provide a report on the socio-economic implications of GMOs by June 2010 This report should be based on information provided by Member States, which have made an important effort to compile information on the socio-economic implications of GMOs and, notably, of their cultivation. But given that Member States contributions arrived later than expected, the Commission will finalize its report by the end of 2010. This report will then be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council for consideration and further discussion.

Can we anticipate a speeding-up of the authorization process of GMOs and a rising of surface of GM cultivated areas in the EU?
There is no speeding up of authorisations or weakening of the rigorous environmental risk assessment requirements of the legislation. The proposal the Commission adopts today does not change these requirements. To the contrary, work on the implementation of the 2008 Council conclusions is since ongoing. Moreover, ensuring a safety assessment following the highest scientific standards and a reinforcement of the monitoring function were and remain priorities for the Commission as concerns GMO cultivation.

For more information http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm

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Commission’s Nationalisation of Approval for the Cultivation of GM Crops

– EuropaBio, Brussels, July 13, 2010 http://www.europabio.org

This afternoon EuropaBio provided industry’s initial reactions to Commissioner Dalli’s announcement of the Commission’s proposal to nationalise the authorisation of cultivation of GM crops.

Commenting on the proposal, EuropaBio Secretary General, Nathalie Moll, said: “EuropaBio recognised President Barroso’s commitment early on to develop a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and we were also encouraged by the Commission’s goal of embracing responsible European innovation across all sectors. Furthermore, we appreciated the vision put forward by the Commission of enabling the EU member states to move forward on the issue of GM crop cultivation at their own pace. Central to this vision must be permitting those member states and their farmers who wish to embrace the benefits of GM crops the freedom to do so.”

Consequently, industry is disappointed that today’s proposal does not appear to provide a means of delivering this vision in that it disables rather than enables the application of beneficial and rigorously tested agricultural biotech products and technologies. We strongly believe that for the proposal to be workable it must be science-based, proportionate in its recommendations and non-discriminatory to those farmers that wish to choose to grow the crops that work best for them. Without due respect for these fundamental principles, the resulting policy will be detrimental to the overall sustainability and success of the European agricultural sector as a whole.

EuropaBio Director for Agricultural Biotechnology, Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, explained: “These proposals appear to give carte blanche to ban safe and approved GM crops in any country or region regardless of the needs or wishes of their farmers. In addition, the proposals will inject further legal uncertainty for those farmers that do wish to grow these crops. The upshot is that even as we contemplate a future fraught with the challenges of globalisation, climate change, food insecurity and shortage of natural resources, we will be denying our farmers the ability to use cutting edge technologies, already available to their counterparts outside the EU, to help them to deal with these same challenges”.

EuropaBio and its members remain committed to applying their expertise towards providing sustainable and beneficial products and technologies giving European farmers and consumers a greater choice in what they grow, buy and eat.

EU Wants to Put GMO Dispute to An End

– EurActive, July 2010 12 http://www.euractiv.com

The European Commission will tomorrow (13 July) propose an overhaul of the EU’s policy for approving genetically modified (GM) crops, which will allow countries more freedom to ban cultivation on their territory while retaining an EU-wide authorisation system.

The new policy for GM crop cultivation, to be unveiled tomorrow, aims to draw a line under years of stalemate between countries that support GMOs and those opposed to their cultivation. The initiative aims to deliver on a promise made by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso before his reappointment last year (EurActiv 03/09/09).

At present, EU member states are only able to restrict GM crop cultivation under strict conditions, as authorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU single market.

The plans would allow large-scale commercial planting in pro-GM countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, opening up new markets for major biotech companies, while at the same time legally endorsing existing GM bans in countries like Italy, Austria and Hungary.

Legislative proposals
The legislative proposal seeks to insert a new article (Article 26b) into the 2001 Directive on the Deliberate Release of GMOs. The proposed new article allows member states to prohibit cultivation provided that the reasons are not related to GMOs’ adverse effects on health and their environment, or to their socio-economic impact.

Health and environmental concerns can continue to be raised using the existing safeguard clause (Article 23 of the directive).

Meanwhile, prohibition on socio-economic grounds will be authorised under a new Commission Recommendation on guidelines to prevent GM contamination of conventional and organic crops, which will also be tabled tomorrow. The guidelines are set to replace 2003 Commission guidance on national co-existence measures.

Speeding up authorisation processes
The draft new texts also stress that member states should adopt “a more positive stance” on GMO authorisation at the risk assessment stage and “avoid” seizing the safeguard clause to address non-scientific issues.

The idea is to trade a broader right to restrict GM crop cultivation on national territory in exchange for some member states dropping their long-standing opposition to GM crops.

For years, EU member states in the Council of Ministers have been unable to reach a qualified majority for or against GMO authorisations, referring the matter back to the Commission, which has invariably authorised them via a special regulatory procedure.

NGOs denounce flawed proposal
Under the proposed deal, the GMO approval process would therefore speed up. But environmental NGOs Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace argue that restrictions on invoking Article 26b would limit the set of admissible grounds for bans mainly to ethical concerns.

According to them, national decisions based on ethical grounds are likely to be subject to legal challenges brought by crop companies due to the difficulty of defining “objective” criteria in the field of ethics, they stress. A legal opinion on the draft proposal commissioned by the two NGOs argues that it does not provide the legal certainty that member states need in order to adopt permanent bans on GMOs that have received EU approval.

NGOs also note that while the Commission proposals address the banning of GM crops by national governments, there is nothing to protect conventional and organic farmers in countries that decide to allow them.

Business worried about legal uncertainties, single market
EuropaBio, the European bio-industry association, says the Commission’s plan to “nationalise” the GMO issue should be seen as positive step.

But it notes that the “devil is in the detail,” arguing that the draft proposals could in practice cause legal uncertainty as farmers will be able to challenge their national authorities for restricting access to products, for example. The industry underlines the importance of allowing all EU farmers the same choice of technology once it has received scientific approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In this regard, EuropaBio notes that tomorrow’s proposals represent a move away from the EU single market as they would allow member states to restrict products on non-scientific grounds.

New environmental risk assessment guidelines under way
Before a GM plant can be cultivated in the EU it has to undergo an extensive Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) to identify any possible adverse effects it may have on the environment. Following criticism from some member states, the European Commission mandated the European Food Safety Authority’s GMO panel to revise the agency’s guidelines on environmental risk assessments.

The guidelines assess, for example, the persistence and invasiveness of a GM plant, including plant-to-plant gene transfers, its impact on non-target organisms and criteria for setting up field trials.

However, a report analysing the EFSA’s draft guidelines for the environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered plants, presented by the Greens in the European Parliament last week (6 July), argues that the agency fails to properly address risks posed by genetically engineered plants.

The report stresses that there is a “basic misconception” in EFSA’s thinking, which assumes that genetically engineered plants are similar to those obtained by conventional breeding. The Greens argue they are fundamentally different.

Marco Contiero, GM policy officer at Greenpeace, added that if this concept of “substantial equivalence” were taken as a basis, it would be impossible to assess unpredictable long-term effects of GM plants. French Green MEPs José Bové and Sandrine Bélier said that together with the Commission’s upcoming new policy on GM crop cultivation, the EFSA’s current environment risk assessment proposals “would allow companies to reduce risk assessment to just a few studies and to speed up market authorisation for the EU territory overall”.

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Background

At present, EU member states are only able to restrict genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation under strict conditions as authorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU’s single market.

Several member states have repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that enjoy EU-wide authorisation, but the European Commission has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered the lifting of national bans.

In addition, the safety assessments performed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have come under criticism over the years (EurActiv 05/12/05 and 10/03/06). The EU executive has tried to introduce practical changes to the EFSA’s GMO-approval process and in spring 2008, it mandated the agency to revise its guidance for the long-term environmental risk assessment of GM plants (EurActiv 12/04/06).

The EFSA itself has been trying to improve the openness and transparency of its work. During the French EU Presidency in 2008, EU ministers also called for the long-term environmental risk assessment of GMOs to be improved.
http://www.euractiv.com/en/cap/%20EU-wants-GMO-dispute-to-end-news-496059

DG Sanco and LLP Policy Options for the EU

On 7 May 2008, the European Commission delayed a decision on allowing farmers to grow more GM crops, and asked European Food Safety Authority to reconsider its previous review, which it had admitted was inadequate, as it was unable to take indirect and long term impacts into account. This paper represents a follow up from this debate which concluded that the Commission services should work on a technical solution for the issue of LLP of non approved GMOs in feed and foodstuffs before the summer.

http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/animal_feed/zero_tolerance_DG_Sanco_draft_techn…

Policy_options_llp_eu

Is China the great equalizer in the global GM debate?

Genetically modified foods get U.S. traction, global debate

by Elizabeth Weise, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-03-17-Biotech17_cv_N.htm?loc=inters…

Biologically engineered crops continue to be embraced in both developed and developing nations. Last year, 330 million acres of biotech crops were planted in 25 countries, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA) says. 

“China most definitely will have an influence in the future of agriculture and trade. They grow an incredible amount of food and fiber, and the more they embrace this technology, the more it’s going to be used,” says Eric Hoffman, the group’s genetic engineering policy campaigner in Washington, D.C. “There’s potential for China shifting the balance away from the movement that Europe is creating to stop these technologies.”

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