GMO news related to Belgium

14.11.2019 |

MEPs oppose import authorisation of herbicide-resistant GMOs

The European Parliament has voted against plans to authorise the import of four varieties of genetically-modified crops.

Passed with a significant majority, the non-binding resolutions call on the European Commission to withdraw draft decisions that authorise the import of four varieties of cotton, soy and maize.

These GMOs have been made tolerant to glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium, both herbicides, meaning they can be exposed to repeated doses without suffering damage. Citing a number of scientific studies, MEPs warned that as a result they could lead to higher quantity of pesticide residues in the harvest.

The Parliament also criticised the Commission for the continuing to authorise imported genetically-modified products despite objections from member states and MEPs.

In October MEPs had passed similar non-binding motions opposing three other herbicide-resistant GMOs.

07.11.2019 |

Environment MEPs oppose plans to authorise four herbicide-resistant GMOs

The Environment Committee today opposed the Commission’s plans to authorise the import of products containing four glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium resistant GMOs, in a vote on Wednesday.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament today opposed the European Commission’s plans to authorise the import of products containing four herbicide-resistant GMOs and calls on the Commission to withdraw its draft implementing decisions on these products. This follows the decision of Plenary 10 October 2019 to oppose three other herbicide-resistant GMOs.

The authorisations cover the import of products containing or consisting of GMOs cotton LLCotton25[1], soybean MON 89788[2], maize MON 89034 including sub-combinations[3] and maize Bt11 × MIR162 × MIR604 × 1507 × 5307 × GA21 including sub-combinations[4].

These GMOs have been made tolerant to glyphosate-based and glufosinate ammonium-based herbicides. MEPs say that a number of studies show that such GM crops result in a higher use of weed killers. The crop may be exposed to repeated doses, which potentially lead to higher quantity of residues in the harvest, they say.

05.11.2019 |

Regulatory detection of new GMOs: Finally under way

European experts on GMO detection are getting to work on establishing detection methods for new GMOs, reports Eric Meunier of Inf'OGM

Since February 2019, European experts on GMO detection and traceability have been updating their work. Whether it is GMOs obtained by new techniques of genetic modification, genetically modified animals or micro-organisms, all are on the agenda for the coming months. This is essential work that has nevertheless been slow in coming, in particular due to opposition from the European Commission in 2017.

04.10.2019 |

No ‘magical’ alternative to glyphosate in the next 5 years, Bayer official says

In the next five years, no alternative to glyphosate is going to “magically” appear in the market, Dr Bob Reiter, a high-ranking official from Bayer, told EURACTIV.com, referring to the controversial herbicide that has been the subject of heated debates across Europe.

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the Future of Farming Dialogue event in Monheim, Dr Reiter, who is the head of research and development, crop science at Bayer, said glyphosate might be a “once in a lifetime product”.

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Gene editing and EU framework

EURACTIV also discussed with Dr Reiter the issue of plant breeding innovation and the EU framework to regulate it, following an EU Court decision that complicated things.

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

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For Dr Reiter, the legislation that regulates genetically modified products could be reopened. “And in that, maybe one can see legislation that sort of makes, it has a different path for gene editing […] and there are pros and cons to that, honestly.”

Regarding a new regulatory framework, he said we have to be careful.

“Gene editing, in theory, can do very simple things that look just like nature. It can also be complex engineering that looks like a GMO. So given that breadth, I think it’s going to be a little bit tricky just to set aside and create new legislation that’s unique for gene editing,” he said.

24.07.2019 |

US pressure on EU to de-regulate new GM

One year after a landmark ECJ judgment that the EU’s GMO rules should apply to new genetic engineering techniques, industry groups and the US Government are keeping up pressure on the European Union to deregulate, with implications for food and bio-safety, as well as consumer choice.

On 25 July 2018 a key ruling was published by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which left no space for interpretation: existing GMO regulations must be applied to all products produced from new techniques of genetic engineering like CRISPR-Cas. Such techniques - often referred to by developers as ‘gene-editing’ or ‘new breeding techniques’ - have emerged since Europe’s GMO law was introduced in 2001, and are currently being applied by developers to food crops, trees, farm animals and insects. Dozens of patents have already been filed in this field by the big agrochemical corporations like Bayer, BASF, Dow Agrosciences and Monsanto.

09.07.2019 |

The EU must not de-regulate gene-edited crops and foods

Some members of the outgoing EU Commission and the agbiotech lobby want the regulations governing genetically modified crops and foods relaxed or scrapped to open markets for gene-edited products. But this goes against the science underpinning the technology and could put the public and environment at risk, writes Dr Michael Antoniou.

Dr Michael Antoniou is molecular geneticist at King’s College London

Some members of the outgoing European Commission want to change the EU legislation on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops to accommodate the products of new gene-editing techniques, often called “new plant breeding techniques” or NBTs.

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said DG SANTE “has already prepared the ground for a new initiative on gene editing to overhaul the current GMO legislation”. The “initiative” will be taken up by the new Commission after this year’s elections.

28.06.2019 |

EFSA gene drive working group fails independence test

Gene drive, a new genetic engineering technique potentially as powerful as it is controversial, is undergoing regulatory evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). But as a majority of experts tasked to assess the technology’s potential risks have financial links with organisations developing the technology, the assessment is mired in conflicts of interest. Time for the EU Parliament to increase the pressure on the agency to tighten its independence policy.

Obvious and serious conflicts of interest are still not in the past for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): a look at the agency’s working group on the risks associated to the gene drive technology makes this quite clear. Two-thirds of its members have financial links with organisations developing this technology. For instance, two of the appointed experts are receiving funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in turn funds lobby work in favour of the technology. Even according to EFSA’s own, rather weak, independence policy, one of these appointments should not have been made due to obvious conflicts of interest.

So why did EFSA put together such a problematic expert panel on an issue that is this sensitive? The agency has defended its choices, stating that the appointments are compliant with its independence rules – a claim which is in one case is simply incorrect. Apart from showing that EFSA does not therefore seem to properly implement its own rules, the fact that several other grave conflicts of interest did not even trigger the policy demonstrates that there are still severe loopholes.

After so many years of EFSA’s poor implementation and partial disregard of repeated EU Parliament requests to fix its independence policy, wouldn’t it be time for Parliamentarians to step up the pressure on this EU agency?

17.06.2019 |

New GMOs: Coming to your dinner plate soon?

Did you think GM crops and foods had pretty much gone away in Europe? Now they’re set to return.

If lobbyists get their way, new genetically modified (GM) crops, foods, and farm animals will appear in our fields and on our dinner plates – with few or no safety checks and no labelling.

These new GM crops and foods are produced with so-called gene-editing techniques. Gene-edited organisms already developed include super-muscled pigs (similar to the one in the image above), a non-browning mushroom, and a soybean that produces altered fats.

GMO companies are also planning to market a new generation of gene-edited herbicide-tolerant crops, including wheat. These plants are engineered to survive being sprayed with large amounts of toxic herbicides, such as those based on glyphosate.

Gene-editing techniques are often called “New Breeding Techniques” (NBTs). But they are not breeding techniques. They are artificial laboratory GM techniques that result in the production of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

17.04.2019 |

Industry studies behind EU food safety assessments must be public

Defeat for agribusiness lobby

The European Parliament voted today to introduce new transparency rules for EU food safety assessments, as part of the EU’s "general food law". The amended law will oblige the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to publish the industry studies used in European safety evaluations of products that can end up in food – such as pesticides, GMOs and animal feed additives.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The chemical industry will still test the safety of their own products, but at least now the studies will be published so that independent scientists can scrutinise their contents and the advice EFSA gives to lawmakers. EFSA has in the past privileged corporate interests over the public’s right to know, so we will be watching closely to see that the new rules are properly applied.”

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Corporate Europe Observatory commented, "This victory is the result of many years of campaigning by scientists and citizens, in particular the Stop Glyphosate European Citizens Initiative (ECI). While this reform should have been much broader, it is a rare defeat for agribusiness lobbyists, despite their attempt to derail and hollow out the measure. But the battle isn’t over, because industry will be looking for loopholes, and we will have to ensure this transparency law is meaningfully implemented."

12.03.2019 |

EU liberal party forced to end corporate sponsorship after Macron pressure

The EU’s liberal political party has been forced to end corporate donations after complaints from Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche over funding received from agrichemical giant Bayer.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) brings together liberal parties from across Europe and is the fourth biggest political family in the European Parliament. Alde have been courting Mr Macron’s centrist party as future allies after pan-EU elections in May.

On Wednesday Hans van Baalen, Alde chairman, said the party would no longer allow private sector companies to sponsor stands at its political events or give corporate donations after controversy over money received from Bayer in 2017.

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