Will the Commission authorise controversial GM Maize 1507?

The vast majority of Europeans don’t want GM in Europe.  This has been made clear in this week’s vote, where nineteen European Member States [1] voted against the Dupont Pioneer Genetically Modified (GM) maize (known as 1507) tabled by the European Commission.

Prior to the vote, the EU Parliament echoed European consumers’ voices in a plea to the Commission to withdraw its plans to authorise the controversial GM Maize. The Parliament resolution was supported by 385 votes to 201 and 30 abstentions.

However, despite the strong European public and political rejection, the European voting system, described by many as undemocratic, gives the power to the European Commission to decide on behalf of the Member States if they do not reach a certain number of votes.

The reactions after the vote were numerous and compelling. 12 member states addressed Health Commissioner Borg not to ignore political, legal and scientific concerns expressed by an overwhelming majority of stakeholders and respect a previous declaration stating that the Commission will not go against a predominant position which might emerge against the appropriateness of an implementing measure.  The European Greens have threatened the Commission with censure. Such a motion needs to be supported initially by 77 MEPs and approved by 2/3 of the MEPs and can force the EU Commission to step down.

Environmental NGOs are also calling the EU Commission to reconsider its position and stop flirting with the biotech industry.  Greenpeace argues that an approval of this GM maize will be illegal. “A European Court of Justice ruling in December 2013 struck down the authorisation of another GM crop adopted by the Commission in 2010, BASF’s antibiotic-resistant GM potato Amflora. The Court found that the Commission had substantially altered its original proposal to approve Amflora, but had failed to consult again with a committee of national experts. Greenpeace argues that the Commission has substantially altered its original proposal on 1507 and is once again in breach of EU law by fast-tracking this GM crop’s approval.”  

The controversial GM maize produces a toxin that kills pests. However, since 2011 the European Food Safety Authority has demonstrated that the toxin released by the GM maize can harm butterflies and moths.  In addition, this maize is also modified to be resistant to glufosinate ammonium,  a herbicide that will be banned in the EU due to its acute toxicity. Greenpeace reminds that under EU law, all GM crops tolerant to herbicides must be subjected to a specific risk assessment. Such an assessment has not been carried out on 1507.

In the same lines, Friends of the Earth Europe, asserted that ¨In light of the industry-friendly agenda of the trade talks between the EU and US, the decision whether to license this GM maize is the first real test of the European Commission to see if they will stand up for citizens and the environment or buckle to corporate trade interests.”

The environmental NGO characterises the current negotiations over a transatlantic trade agreement (known as the TTIP) – as one of the  biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history. Powerful multinationals, including agri-business, are currently lobbying for the deal to lead to weaker safeguards, in particular on issues related to food and GM crops.

One can be sure that the story does not end here and we should remember that if we care about our food, we should continue to take action and tell our governments that they need to stop the crop. Every time we go shopping we vote with our wallet – this is what has kept GM foods off the European shelves so many years. So keep voting!

More on this story : Germans protesters say NO to GM Maize 1507

[1] The nineteen countries voted against the approval of the GM crop were Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia). Only five countries were in favour Estonia , Finland, Spain, Sweden and the UK- while four countries abstained – Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, and Portugal.

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About Myrto Pispini (41 Articles)
Myrto Pipsini’s work covers both Greece and Spain.  Currently a freelancer, Myrto has 15 years experience in environmental organisations, campaigning on agriculture and food issues. Being based in Spain and Greece, and being a lover of all good and natural Mediterranean food, she is experimenting with growing her own food, putting in practice what she is campaigning for.