Wednesday, 5th September 2012 - European Parliament

Watch the livestream from the European Parliament in Brussels:

Wednesday 05 September 2012, 09:30 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 18:00 (see time of individual sessions below)

Download the program for the 5th here.

We have not met for quite some time, probably as everything was going well for a GMO-free Europe. However, there are now clouds gathering on the horizon: Dozens of new GMO approvals are pending, including some for cultivation. The EU Commission is proposing that traces of GMOs in human food could be allowed, even when this GMO has never been approved in the EU. The Council of Ministers has failed to agree on the option of nationally banning the cultivation of GMOs in Member States and their regions. Will 2013 see a new attempt of the GMO industry to penetrate Europe?

Opening speeches

EP-Livestream: 00:00:00 - 00:16:05 (part 1)

Panel 1: National bans on GMO cultivation - how to get it right?

At our last GMO Free Regions Conference two years ago, Commissioner John Dalli presented a proposal on how to add the option of national bans for the cultivation of GMOs after their EU approval. The legal concept of this proposal had been criticized by NGOs, governments and the European Parliament. While the Parliament adopted a constructive set of amendments to the Commission’s proposal in its 2011 Lepage report, the Council of Ministers continues to disagree. A blocking minority of Member States (DE, FR, UK, Be) last prevented a vote in June 2012. Will the Commission now approve GMOs for cultivation without the national ban option? Will Member States then again use the safeguard clause for emergencies to stop the cultivation? Or will the Council and Parliament come to an agreement? GMO Free Regions demand regional self-determination including the right to ban GMOs on their territory. However, this must not come at the expense of a rigorous EU-wide assessment of environmental and health and socio-economic risks and internal market management at European level.

 EP-Livestream: 00:16:05 - 01:25:30 (part 1)

Intermezzo I: Why honeybees need GMO free Europe and how bee-keepers have changed the co-existence debate

Since the European Court of Justice ruled that GM pollen in honey is an ingredient to be considered in authorization, labeling of honey has become a new game within the European Union, as well as for the substantial imports. Concepts of so-called co-existence between GM and non-GM farming are now being determined by the distances bees can travel in their search for flowers. Industrialized agriculture and its monocultures are making these distances longer and longer. That is but one of the reasons bees and other pollinators face enormous pressure. Thomas Radetzki from the Alliance for the Protection of Bees against Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, will present the state of play with Walter Haefeker, President of the European Professional Beekeepers Association.

 EP-Livestream: 01:26:00 - 01:45:15 (part 1)

Panel 2: Upcoming GMO approvals and the state of risk assessment

The 10th anniversary of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its panel for EU-wide assessments of health and environmental risks of GMOs sees new approvals and old problems. Ways and means of a reliable, credible, inclusive and holistic assessment of the impact of GMOs are as disputed as ever. The GMO panel faces the same allegations of pro-GMO bias that the previous one did. While the EFSA approval is usually swiftly given by these experts, the pile of unfinished and pending applications for new GMOs has been continuously mounting. The promised reform of the approval process seems to be stuck within the institutions. Experts cannot even agree on basic issues such as how to assess and monitor the pesticidal and/or pesticide resistance aspects of GMOs, or how to address the combined risks of so-called ‘stacked events’. Where do we stand and what can we expect with respect to the approval and assessment of GMOs in Europe 2013 and 2014?

 Presentation_Paul Holmbeck

EP-Livestream: 01:46:45 - 03:08:40 (part 1)

Intermezzo II: Don’t call me GMO no more! Will “Cisgenetics” and other GMO-mutations reframe the GMO debate?

The definition of what constitutes a genetically modified organism is coming under attack: The old concepts of “recombinant nucleic acid techniques involving the formation of new combinations of genetic material (…) and their incorporation into a host organism in which they do not naturally occur (…)” are themselves being engineered and mutated. A brief introduction to technical developments and their spin-doctoring.

EP-Livestream: 00:01:00 - 00:16:50 (part 2)


How “roundup ready” is Europe’s agricultural policy?

Local proteins from leguminous plants as part of a healthy crop rotation in Europe are among the key demands of farmers, NGOs and the European Parliament regarding the EU’s future Common Agricultural Policy. Imported soybeans from monocultures in the Americas (USA, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay), feeding Europe’s excessive meat production, make up over 80 % of the GMOs used in the EU. They come at a price: For the livelihoods and health of farmers and their families in the Americas, for the global environment and for the safety of animals.

 EP-Livestream: 00:17:55 - 01:49:30 (part 2) 

Intermezzo III: Greetings from USA, India and China

For the first time, labeling of GMOs in food is a realistic option in Monsanto’s own country - USA. Californians will vote on a GM labeling bill as they chose between Romney and Obama in November. 350,000 US citizens have already objected to the next round of herbicide-resistant GM plants. In India all attempts to introduce GM food, such as GM eggplants (Bt Brinjal), have been prevented by massive public movements. The Chinese government has also stopped GM rice - the mother of all GM struggles - for another 4 years. Is there reason for hope?

 EP-Livestream: 01:50:40 - 02:24:45 (part 2)

Video Conference: Hello Vienna!

Donau Soja is an important initiative supplying Europe with more and more homegrown soybeans, both for human consumption and as animal feed. Of course such a supply should be 100 % GMO free. As the EFSA has just suggested the approval of Monsanto’s GM soybeans for cultivation in Europe, there are good reasons for us to join forces with the European soybean industry meeting at the Vienna Stock Exchange to establish Donau Soja as a new, GMO-free brand.


Video Conference: Hello Erfurth!

GMO Free Regions and the Network of GMO Free Regional Governments have been co-operating for years. However, this year the organizers managed to set the date for their meetings on the same day – sorry about that! To make the best of this situation, we will be connecting with the meeting of GMO Free Regional Governments in Erfurth via a video conference.


Plenary debate: Where do we go from here?

GMOs will be on the political plate again: Monsanto and friends have not yet given up, and their political friends are still claiming to “feed the world” and promote Europe’s “knowledge-based bio-economy”. Resistance against GMOs is hardening in many regions of Europe and expanding to broader issues of sustainable agriculture and food consumption. Where is the anti-GMO movement heading and where will our regional initiatives take us over the coming year? We will hear of initiatives from Sweden to Cyprus, Iceland to Spain, Romania, Wales, Scotland, Poland Greece and Japan.

EP-Livestream: 02:57:25 - 03:16:00 (part 2)