GMO news related to Belgium

22.11.2019 |

MEPs slam gene-editing court ruling as damaging for SMEs

It is much easier for larger companies to implement new GM legislation, but it’s the smaller ones that are most affected by the recent gene-editing ruling, the chair of the agriculture committee (AGRI) MEP, Norbert Lins, told EURACTIV.com at the sidelines of a recent plant breeding conference.

His comment was in reference to the July 2018 EU Court decision that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are GMOs and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

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However, the claim that SMEs hold a larger market share of NBT patents is widely refuted by NGOs.

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the event, Jan Plagge, president of EU organic farmers (IFOAM EU), said that there are various types of patents and that although larger corporations may not hold as many of the patents for finished products, they do hold the majority of patents for gene-editing techniques.

This, he said, makes it “hard for small and medium enterprises to use this technology” and therefore the argument that “regulation is preventing SMEs from strengthening their innovation and product development is not really valid”.

He added that “four or five” large companies have the largest share of the seed market and that they secured “a lot of licenses and patents on techniques”.

18.11.2019 |

Battle over glyphosate shifts to the environmental front

Forget cancer. The next EU debate on the safety of glyphosate will be about the environment and the harm the ubiquitous herbicide can do to life in meadows and rivers.

14.11.2019 |

European Parliament Objects to Four Genetically Modified Crops

Nonbinding vote concerns EU approvals for two genetically modified corns, soybean, cotton

Approvals process characterized by country stalemate

The parliament’s votes against market approvals for two genetically modified corns, a soybean, and a cotton are nonbinding. But they put pressure on EU countries and the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to take a more restrictive approach to genetically modified crops, Beat Spath, agricultural biotech director of industry group EuropaBio, told Bloomberg Environment.

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?

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