GMO news related to Belgium

30.06.2020 |

Open letter: we need a global moratorium on the release of gene drive organisms

Together with over 80 organisations, we wrote to the EU Commission to ask them to support a global moratorium on the release of Gene Drive Organisms.

Gene Drive technology aims to eradicate entire populations of species via genetic engineering, and its effects are currently not reversible. The environmental threat of its release poses serious and novel threats to nature.

The letter calls on EU Environment and Health Commissioners Sinkevičius and Kyriakides to follow the European Parliament's call for a global moratorium ahead of the upcoming COP 15 UN biodiversity talks.

07.05.2020 |

The EU not ready for the release of Gene drive organisms into the environment

Summary:

Gene drive organisms (GDOs) have been suggested as an approach to solve some of the most pressing environmental and public health issues. Currently, it remains unclear what kind of regulations are to be used to cover the potential risks. Scientists have evaluated the options for an operational risk assessment of GDOs before their release into environments across the EU.

30.04.2020 |

EFSA discusses risk assessment of gene drives

Testbiotech demands that ‘cut-off’ criteria are applied

30 April 2020 / The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation on guidance for the risk assessment of so-called gene drives at the request of the EU Commission. At the same time, a new Testbiotech scientific paper was accepted after peer review. The paper shows that the EFSA concept is insufficient. To control the risks of gene drives, ‘cut-off criteria’ need to be defined to prevent the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms.

Gene drives are genetic elements which can spread much more widely than would normally be expected. In recent years, artificial gene constructs have been developed using the gene scissor CRISPR/Cas. Organisms, inheriting such gene constructs, are meant to be released and intended to spread rapidly, especially throughout wild populations. The goal is to replace or eradicate the targeted species. However, once started, the spread can no longer be effectively controlled. Damage to human health and the environment can be extensive.

Against this backdrop, EFSA is currently working on guidance for the risk assessment of mosquitoes which inherit genetically engineered gene drives. There are already proposals to use these mosquitoes to fight malaria in Africa: the plan is to eradicate those species which can transmit malaria via a mutagenic chain reaction, or replace them with mosquitoes that can no longer be a vector of the disease.

26.03.2020 |

No place for gene editing in Commission's sustainability strategy

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make farming healthier and more environmentally friendly – but it might also prove to be a back-door entry point for gene-edited products

The European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) is a key component of the European Green Deal, a "new growth strategy" that "gives back more than it takes away".

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"New genomic techniques" are, of course, new GM techniques. It is baffling that the Commission planned to assess their status under EU law because the European Court of Justice – the highest legal authority in the EU – ruled in 2018 that these new techniques fall under the EU's GMO regulations. That means that products of the new techniques must go through safety checks and carry a GMO label. Did the Commission really think it understood the law better than the Court? Or was it just desperate to find a way to rescue "new GM" from the scrutiny of safety assessments and labelling?

As for the Commission's potential "proposal", this is almost certainly an attempt to change the GMO regulations to allow gene-edited (and possibly all GM) products easier access to market.

16.03.2020 |

Is Hogan about to let Trump's GM exports into EU?

Five years after the public outcry against lowering EU standards via the TransAtlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTP) culminated in a petition signed by more than three million EU citizens, the new EU Commission is giving it another try.

By 18 March, trade commissioner Phil Hogan wants to sign a deal with the Trump administration which, to add a bit of spice, includes fast-tracking GMO imports in an attempt to please the US farming industry.

At the same time, the commission is downplaying work by independent scientists highlighting major gaps in current risk assessment procedures for genetically engineered (GE) plants.

Will the Green Deal take account of the environmental and health risks of GE organisms?

25.02.2020 |

EU mulls faster genetically modified food approvals for Trump

Such a move could shift focus to the approvals process at food safety watchdog EFSA.

Brussels is ready to offer to speed up the approval process for genetically modified organisms imported into the EU, as part of a mini trade agreement with Washington.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to strike such a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump by March 18.

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Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU’s agriculture policy director, said that if turbo-charged GMO approvals were what the Commission meant by a Green Deal, “it boils down to business-as-usual greenwashing for the sake of defending the German car industry.”

“Of course, they’re ready to give the U.S. what they want, despite a clear decades-long rejection by EU citizens,” he continued. “This Commission seems to be acting just like the past one. It’s scary news.”

20.02.2020 |

Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

More than 100 civil society organisations demand a stop to trade talks with the US that will further endanger EU rules on health and the environment and aggravate the climate crisis. A change of course is needed.

We have followed the recent talks between the European Commission and the US authorities on a new trade agreement with disbelief and disappointment. It has become clear that the Commission is prepared to accommodate Trump’s demands for a reduction of EU food safety levels, to the detriment of public health, animal welfare and the environment, and also undermining EU commitments on climate change.

Fear of threats made by the US President to impose high tariffs on European cars cannot be an excuse for retreating on basic public interest. The apparent paradigm shift within the Commission, emerging after months of negotiating behind closed doors and largely shielded from public scrutiny, is highly alarming. We call on governments and parliamentarians in the EU to push the Commission to alter its course. It must be made clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale.

16.02.2020 |

Toxic residues through the back door

Pesticide corporations and trade partners pressured EU to allow banned substances in imported crops

Pesticide corporations and trade partners have put immense pressure on the EU to allow residues of certain hazardous pesticides - banned in Europe - to be present in food and feed imports. Facing an endless number of visits, letters and reports, complaints and threats at the WTO by the US, Canada and others, the European Commission dropped its original plan to ban residues of these dangerous chemical substances in imports. It is now up to the new Commission - with its ambitious European Green Deal - to change this approach and stand up for public health.

EU pesticide rules include a ban on particularly hazardous substances in pesticides, for instance those that are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. These substances are so dangerous that EU regulators believe that, unlike other chemicals, there is no safe level of exposure to them.

13.02.2020 |

Epic battle over green farming divides EU departments

DG ENV officials reckon DG AGRI is out to block real change.

Two European Commission departments are at war over how much action is needed to make the EU's farming system more environmentally friendly.

Agriculture is one of the most fundamental components of the EU budget and receives about €59 billion of subsidies each year. Politically protected farmers, however, have long avoided tough, binding targets to go green, despite producing about 10 percent of Europe's emissions.

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Though it is unclear whether it is an official policy position, much of the document appears to be a response to a draft of DG ENV's biodiversity strategy, obtained by POLITICO earlier this month. That strategy called for a 2030 target to slash the use of pesticide and fertilizers by 30 percent.

But DG AGRI's document suggests the EU should not set targets for reducing the use or risks of pesticides, and instead focus on "providing alternatives and enhancing the introduction of alternative pest management." It says it would be "meaningless" from a public health perspective to reduce the "volume or value of a long set of very diverse substances."

The EU has committed to measures to "significantly reduce" the risk and use of agricultural chemicals in the Green Deal.

05.02.2020 |

New GMOs: Kyriakides gets off on wrong foot with biased consultation

The new EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides recently told EURACTIV.com that her “priority is to gather more information” on gene editing. To this end, she said, “we will be preparing a study on new genomic techniques, foreseen for spring 2021”. Clearly, the design and set-up of such a study will be crucial to its outcome, writes Nina Holland.

By Nina Holland, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory

On 10 February 2020, DG SANTE will hold a ‘targeted stakeholder consultation’ to discuss the set-up of this policy study on ‘new genomic techniques’.

However, only Brussels-based organisations have been invited and the list of invitees shows an enormous bias towards industry interests. Out of 94 organisations invited, more than 70% represent industrial food and farming interests, contrasting with fewer than 12% of NGOs.

Such a biased set-up raises concerns that the study is being designed to deliver a pre-determined conclusion.

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