EU Environment Ministers and the promise of new GMO controls

Last week’s meeting (December 4th) of EU Environment Ministers, saw Member States make clear to the European Commission and to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) that there must be a dramatic improvement in the way in which GMO risks to health and the environment are assessed.

In spite of indications that the UK and Germany might have been intent on interfering with the emerging consensus across Europe, it appears even those two countries have agreed a full, joint statement which includes the following elements –
• a re-statement of the “precautionary principle” as a central tenet of GMO assessments.
• a strengthening of the environmental impact assessment for GMOs alongside a strengthening of monitoring requirements.
• more emphasis on the consequences of the use of herbicides as a result of GMO introductions.

The Ministers have agreed far more of a role for independent scientists – and EFSA’s own powers in this area may be reduced. They also said that pesticide-producing GM crops should be treated in the same way as chemical pesticides and recognised the right of regions and local communities to establish GM-free zones.

The sub text appears to be that EU Environment Ministers are now insisting on transparent reform of what has been seen by some as a secretive and corrupt assessment process.

“Member states have sent a clear signal to the Commission that we need to improve the way we assess the impact of GM crops on the environment, on our health and on the lives of millions of farmers,” said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU GMO policy director. “It’s now up to the Commission and EFSA to implement these recommendations.”

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