The organic food and farming movement criticises the Commission’s plan to work on a new legal framework for plants derived from New Genomic Techniques.

Deregulating New Genomic Techniques: Organic movement raises red flag

New legal framework about the New Genomic Techniques

In a recently published report, the EU Commission revealed that they are ready to explore options for a new legal framework if Member States give the green light.

The organic sector calls on agriculture and environment ministers as well as the EU Commission to safeguard the capability of producers and farmers to produce without GMOs and allow consumers to choose what they eat. The existing regulation is fit to achieve these goals and already allows research on and marketing of GMOs if the applicable rules are respected.

Jan Plagge, IFOAM Organics Europe President said: “A weakening of the rules on the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and food is worrying news and could leave organic food systems unprotected – including their ability to trace GMOs throughout the food chain to avoid contaminations that lead to economic losses and to live up to organic quality standards and consumer expectations. Organic producers urge the Commission and Member States to maintain the existing regulatory framework and seriously consider the impact of the proposed regulatory scenario on organic food & farming, consumer choice and access to agrobiodiversity”.

Weakening the regulation would contradict the objectives of the EU Green Deal

According to IFOAM Organics Europe, transparency on the use of genetic modification should continue to apply all along the food production chain. Contrary to the study’s outcomes, weakening the regulation of these technologies would actually contradict the objectives of the EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, as well as the European Court of Justice ruling which states that this new generation of genetically modified organisms must be regulated under the EU’s existing GMO laws.

“It would be irresponsible for Member States to throw years of policy-making out the window to ensure transparency and traceability on the use of GMOs”

“It is baffling that the Commission envisages to jeopardize the development of existing agronomic solutions put forward in its own Farm to Fork strategy to make room in agriculture and food production for genetic modification technologies with at track record of unfulfilled promises”, said Eric Gall, Policy Manager at IFOAM Organics Europe.

He continued that “It would be irresponsible for Member States to throw years of policy-making out the window to ensure transparency and traceability on the use of GMOs on the basis of a Commission study purely based on assumptions on the ‘potential benefits to society’ of new genetic engineering technologies and their contribution to the Farm to Fork strategy’s objectives”.

Safety checks for new genetic engineering techniques are essential

Promises of producers to use the technology to create alternatives to pesticide-tolerant crops should be treated with caution, as is shown by the fact that the first application in the EU for approval of a CRISPR/Cas plant is a herbicide-resistant maize.

Furthermore, mere promises of expected benefits do not justify a weakening of the EU’s standards with regard to environmental protection and farmers’ and consumers’ choice. Safety checks for new genetic engineering techniques are essential, as a proper risk assessment is necessary to assess the potential risk to health and the environment of a particular genome-edited crop on a case-by-case basis.

Rather than depending on and hoping for silver bullet solutions such as GM crops, the Commission’s focus should be on upscaling concrete and well-defined agroecological practices with proven benefits for biodiversity and soil quality. Organic farming is already implementing a wide range of practices to make our food and farming systems more resilient to pests and diverse environmental conditions, as well as extreme weather events linked to climate change while reducing the dependency on synthetic pesticides.

Sources:

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