GM crops: that’s your problemPosted: July 20, 2010
On July 13th, the European Commission officially announced its plan for a new regulation of GM crops – My comments follow.
Full disclosure: My not so valuable opinion:
Let’s start with a simple point: my point of view on GM crops.
To tell the thing fast, GM crops are a bad solution to a real problem: using GM crops allow to continue an intensive agriculture without the need (or with a lesser need) for insecticides, fertilizers or other chemicals that would then infiltrate the underground water and watercourses. However, it does not resolve the real need of an agriculture always expanding – and that is the true challenge for it today.
If I am not too worry of a presence of GM crops in my plate – as long as I can choose to do so and am correctly informed – the spreading of GMOs and the risk it poses to biodiversity is far greater in my opinion.
What does the Commission says ?
The proposition from the Commission – if adopted, we’ll get back on this – would allow member states to ban GM crops on all or parts of their territory, without referring to the safeguard clause (which need to point to concern over health or environment safety), without asking the authorization of the Commission (necessary so far), on criteria “other than those based on a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks”. The aim is to take into account the “local, regional and national” specifics.
The Commission will still have to approve the GM crops at the EU scale, “based on scientific assessment of health and environmental risks“. The presence of GMOs in a proportion greater than 0.9% in food will have to be indicated on labels.
This proposal is motivated, according to the Commission, by an objective of giving “more flexibility” to member states and a “genuine freedom” that take the concerns of the citizens into account.
What to say about this proposition ? – Or, what do I say about it
“That’s your problem now”
Clearly, the Commission, while keeping its responsability of rejecting GM crops which obviously present a risk for health or environment – those that nobody would want anyway – is virtually discharging itself of the topic towards the member states: Since the member states can easily ban GMOs on their territory, the Commission will be much more at ease to authorize those crops.
By getting rid of the case, the Commission shows an obvious lack of courage and audacity. I almost would have prefered that the Commission has decided to say Yes to GM crops without giving any options to the member states – a decision that I would have highly criticized for other reasons – which would have least had been the sing of a political bravery, of a Commission not afraid to take big decisions.
What about Europe ?
This decision which give the last word to member states is removing any sort of European Union regulation. What is the interest of a Commission, if it is just freeing itself from the tricky topics on the back of the States.
Environment and Public Health are, I believe, two domains not depending on language or the local culture from a country to another, and should then been dealt with at the European Level.
This episode is also a terrible public relation for Europe: the Union, in the person of the Commission, is taking the role of the villain authorizing GM crops; and the national governments are saving the population from this GM culture invasion.
Europe is, again, going to be viewed as a liberal institution, at the service of large corporation like Monsanto.
All’s not lost:
This proposal falls under the rules of codecision, which means that the European Parliament have its say. And we are again in the situation we already seen earlier this year with the Thombin (read here, there, and sometime here) ; a situation I described as a perfect text-book example of the legislative process in the Union.
This issue will probably keep us busy and be at the center of debate: between the ones opposing GM crops that will think a national government might be easier to influence that the whole Union, other opposed to GM crops that won’t accept the a priori approval of GM crops at the European Level, … The variety and complexity of point of view won’t make the debate easier (but certainly interesting).
If we ever need to, let’s remind ourselves that European Citizen now have the right of Citizen Initiative ; we might need to use it to force the Commission to take full responsibility and take back the whole case.