European Commission plans to authorise five GM products were opposed by a majority of MEPs yesterday in a vote by the European Parliament.
Five MEPs - Bart Staes, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Guilliaume Balas, Lynn Boylan and Eleonora Evi - tabled ‘non-binding resolutions’ in a bid to get the Commission to think again about its GMO authorisation procedure. The complaints they raised were about:
The vote in the European Parliament does not carry any legal weight, but resolutions of this kind can attract significant public attention.
Green MEP Bart Staes accused the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of relying exclusively on survey data provided by biotech companies which sell GMOs and said this has led to a lack of trust in the authorisation process.
He added: “Commission President Juncker has announced that the authorisation procedure will be made more democratic. Until that is done effectively, the only responsible approach is a de facto moratorium on GMO authorisations for import and cultivation.”
Though current EU rules mean biotech companies have to demonstrate the safety of their products with studies at their own expense, an EFSA spokesperson rejected Mr Staes’ claims, saying the EFSA takes into consideration all relevant scientific information available at the time of the application and continues to screen scientific publications for new findings of interest.
The spokesperson added: “In the specific case of insect-resistant maize, the EFSA GMO Panel identified new scientific publications which might have affected its previous risk assessment and therefore decided to reopen the files and revise its previous opinion in light of the newly available information.”
MEPs voting against authorisation were worried maize Bt11 and 1507 ‘could harm non-target species of butterflies and moths’ and believe ‘cross-contamination poses major risks for farmers and the environment.’
Mark Buckingham, Corporate Engagement Lead for Monsanto UK, commented:
“MON810 maize has proved a very successful product for farmers who have been allowed to plant it, mainly in Spain. It has enabled increased yields and reduced pesticide use leading to improved farm income.
“We hope European policy makers support the renewal of MON810 and allow farmers to continue to choose the tools that work best for them, the local environment and their customers.”