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European GM Proposals Add to Confusion

by 5m Editor
14 July 2010, at 9:45am

SCOTLAND, UK - European proposals on genetically modified (GM) crops adds confusion not clarity, says the National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland.

NFU Scotland believes European Commission proposals to nationalise the approvals process for planting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could rob Europe of a common position on GMs and drive confusion into the debate on the role of GM in agriculture rather than adding clarity.

The Commission is proposing to retain its role in authorising GMOs in Europe but intends to confer to Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of GMOs on part or all of their territory. The 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.

NFU Scotland is deeply concerned that the proposal as it stands lacks balance, providing greater opportunities for those who wish to ban the development or cultivation of GMOs rather than providing an opportunity to actively take the whole GMO debate forward.

NFU Scotland President, Jim McLaren said: "I fully recognise that Europe has found it difficult to find policies on GMOs that meet the political aspirations of its 27 Member States, and the many regions within those states. The Commission's current approvals and authorisation process has been cumbersome and there is an urgent need for the process to move forward. These proposals will not achieve that.

"It would appear that the Commission, having found it difficult to drive through a common position on GM cultivation, is now happy to wash its hands of the subject and leave European farmers and consumers to the political preferences of national or regional governments. The big danger is that the science behind the role that GM may have is lost, the need for research and development is stifled and that emotion takes precedence.

"By leaving GM cultivation policy to Member States and regions, there is the potential that GM policy can change with every election and that GM policy across borders within member states – such as those that exist between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland – could be very different. That is a recipe for confusion and may hold back progress in establishing what role new technology may play in the future.

"That could be to Scotland's detriment. The industry here has been crying out for a proper discussion on the issue of biotechnology for a long time, and Scotland's world-leading research facilities could play a key role in informing any debate. Such institutes are well placed to decide in an unbiased, scientific manner on whether GMO or any emerging biotechnology has a place in the way we produce food in Scotland.

"However, the European proposals do not appear to place science at the heart of decision-making. The proposal that individual governments set their own coexistence targets as a means to restrict GM plantings has little basis in science and could see a plethora of separate policies operating throughout the EU based on political whim. That could disrupt the internal market in the EU and only compound the confusion for farmers, food processors and consumers."