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BUSINESS & REGULATION: EU ruling on GM crops comes under fire



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   EU RULING ON GM CROPS COMES UNDER FIRE

SOURCE:  The Scotsman, UK

AUTHOR:  Andrew Arbuckle

URL:     http://business.scotsman.com/fooddrinkagriculture/EU-ruling-on-GM-crops.6797081.jp

DATE:    07.07.2011

SUMMARY: "THE decision by European politicians to allow individual member states to ban the growing of genetically-modified crop was criticised yesterday by Europe?s largest plant breeder. Limagrain chief executive Daniel Chéron said: ?If we don?t embrace GM technology now, we cannot expect to benefit from its advantages in 2020.? He said: ?Corn yields are increasing by an average 2 per cent year on year, compared with flat growth in wheat. GM technology is largely responsible for delivering the yield improvements seen in corn.?"

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EU RULING ON GM CROPS COMES UNDER FIRE

THE decision by European politicians to allow individual member states to ban the growing of genetically-modified crop was criticised yesterday by Europe?s largest plant breeder.

Limagrain chief executive Daniel Chéron said: ?If we don?t embrace GM technology now, we cannot expect to benefit from its advantages in 2020.?

He said: ?Corn yields are increasing by an average 2 per cent year on year, compared with flat growth in wheat. GM technology is largely responsible for delivering the yield improvements seen in corn.?

He added that yield should not be the sole criteria for the plant breeder. ?Advances in breeding technologies ? is delivering traits that will benefit growers in other ways. For Limagrain, this means developing varieties with improved nitrogen efficiency and drought tolerance.?

He compared the open approach to GM technology operating in most other parts of the world with the negative attitudes in Europe towards the use of technology, such as plant biotechnology, in breeding new varieties.

But while using GM was important, it was not the panacea for all problems, he said. ?Non-GM traits also have a great deal to offer. Developing a hybrid wheat is a huge challenge - the genome is more complicated than that of maize - but if it can be done, it has the potential to deliver significant benefits.?

The European vote also upset NFU Scotland and its counterpart in England, with both saying it put the EU on a retrograde path that flew in the face of science.

Union policy manager Peter Loggie said: ?MEPs are paving the way for a law which invites national governments to look to science for the facts and then ignore them in favour of emotional argument.?

He added that the net effect of devolving responsibility on whether to adopt GM technology down to member state level might be understandable, but the effects could be damaging for EU farmers, scientists and consumers as markets would be distorted and it would obstruct the EU?s competitiveness.

Loggie emphasised that the union did not advocate GM cultivation in itself, but it felt that with increasing emphasis on sustainability and pressure on food security, the EU should be concentrating on making scientific headway in all research avenues.

Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, was critical of the fact that politicians could reject GM technology with no reference to the science.

?Farmers need all the tools available to them to contribute to ?sustainable intensification?. With the world population set to grow to nine billion by 2050, Europe must be in a position to contribute towards global food security,? she said.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   MEP VOTE ON GM IGNORES SCIENCE, SAYS THE NFU

SOURCE:  National Farmers Union, UK (NFU)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.nfuonline.com/Media_centre/2011/MEP_vote_on_GM_ignores_science,_says_the_NFU/

DATE:    05.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The European Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent for EU legislation by ignoring scientific advice on genetically modified crop varieties, the NFU has warned. MEPs have today backed a report, based on proposals from the European Commission, which would allow Member States to disregard advice from the European Food Safety Authority and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, such as socio-economic factors. Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said the MEP report contained a variety of measures that would not only threaten the single market but also seriously hinder progress towards sustainable agriculture in the EU."

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MEP VOTE ON GM IGNORES SCIENCE, SAYS THE NFU

The European Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent for EU legislation by ignoring scientific advice on genetically modified crop varieties, the NFU has warned.

MEPs have today backed a report, based on proposals from the European Commission (EC), which would allow Member States to disregard advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, such as socio-economic factors.

Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said the MEP report contained a variety of measures that would not only threaten the single market but also seriously hinder progress towards sustainable agriculture in the EU.

?The measures proposed could have a serious and detrimental consequence for farmers, consumers and scientists on all sides of the GMO debate,? said Dr Ferrier.

?We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence. This stance could discourage scientific research and investment in the EU which are crucial for sustainable agriculture. This is not the way to mend a dysfunctional regulatory process.

?Many MEPs have expressed a fear about the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops. Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together. However, this must be based on sound science and market mechanisms to allow farmers the choice over which crops to grow.

?Farmers need all the tools available to them to contribute to ?sustainable intensification?. With the world population set to grow to nine billion by 2050, Europe must be in a position to contribute towards global food security.

?We believe a common authorisation procedure with common evaluations of health and environmental safety will best serve EU farmers, consumers and the environment.?

Dr Ferrier also welcomed the recent and long-awaited statement of the UK Government?s policy on GM crops in England.

?In line with the NFU?s biotechnology policy the Government says decisions to authorise GM crops must be science-based. It says there must be choice for farmers and consumers and recognises there are benefits in using GM technology in agriculture. It confirmed that the UK is not in favour of the EU proposal.

?There are no quick fixes but we will continue to work with the Government and through our Brussels office to get these messages across,? she said.

Notes to editors:

1) The EC proposal on the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory was published in July 2010 and can be found here.

2) Today was the European Parliament?s first reading vote on its amended version of the Commission proposal. MEPs must now find common ground with the Environment Council to finalise a new regulation.

3) However, the Environment Council has not yet been given a mandate to begin its own first reading after a number of Member States voiced their dissatisfaction with the original Commission text, citing a number of legal concerns.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GMO LEGISLATION: A BLACK DAY FOR THE INTERNAL MARKET

SOURCE:  European Liberal Youth, Belgium (LYMEC)

AUTHOR:  Slaven Klobucar

URL:     http://www.lymec.eu/news/gmo-legislation-black-day-internal-market

DATE:    06.07.2011

SUMMARY: "LYMEC President Alexander Plahr commented: ?This is a black day for the internal market. In the future the same GMO crops will be allowed in some, but forbidden in other Member States. If any kind of crops has to be forbidden, this should be done on Union level instead and solely based on safety considerations. Allowing Member States to have arbitrary and diverging criteria such as ?to protect agricultural practices on socioeconomic grounds? will fragment the framework conditions for agricultural entrepreneurs in Europe."

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GMO LEGISLATION: A BLACK DAY FOR THE INTERNAL MARKET

Yesterday the European Parliament adopted a report which allows to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) individually on Member State level. Reacting to the news, LYMEC President Alexander Plahr commented: ?This is a black day for the internal market. In the future the same GMO crops will be allowed in some, but forbidden in other Member States. If any kind of crops has to be forbidden, this should be done on Union level instead and solely based on safety considerations. Allowing Member States to have arbitrary and diverging criteria such as ?to protect agricultural practices on socioeconomic grounds? will fragment the framework conditions for agricultural entrepreneurs in Europe. Either certain genetically modified seeds are safe for consumers and the environment alike in all of Europe, or they are unsafe in all of Europe. This is the only criteria that should be applied.? LYMEC Vice President Mette Lykke Nielsen adds: ?This legislation, sh
 ould it come into force, will lead to vastly different chances for farmers in different Member States. This actually is a step back towards national agricultural policy and the opposite of what should be done. Fragmenting the EU?s agricultural space only hurts us in the upcoming WTO talks vis-à-vis the big agricultural producers, namely China, the US and Brazil.?



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:   GM CROPS OPT-OUT WILL MAKE EUROPE A SCIENCE MUSEUM

SOURCE:  Science|Business, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Nuala Moran

URL:     http://bulletin.sciencebusiness.net/news/75239/GM-crops-opt-out-will-make-Europe-a-science-museum

DATE:    07.07.2011

SUMMARY: "?This vote is a clear signal from the Parliament to the Council and the Commission: the EU authorisation system should be maintained but it should be acknowledged that some agricultural and environmental effects [...] can be cited by member states to justify a ban or restriction on GM cultivation,? said Corinne Lepage the French MEP who is the rapporteur steering the proposal through the European Parliament. But it is clear that this would undermine science-based EU-level assessments. Commenting in the amendment, du Marchie Sarvaas said, ?It is disappointing to see how such political voting is making Europe into a science museum rather than an economic motor driven by innovation, particularly at a time when the whole world needs to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.?"

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GM CROPS OPT-OUT WILL MAKE EUROPE A SCIENCE MUSEUM

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas is Director, Green Biotechnology Europe at the pan-European biotechnology industry body EuropaBio

This week?s European Parliament vote to allow member states to ban cultivation of approved GM crops on environmental grounds undermines science-based decision-making system at an EU level, says Carel du Marchie Sarvaas of EuropaBio

On Tuesday the European Parliament voted by the comfortable majority 548 to 84, (with 31 abstentions), to give member states the right to ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops on environmental grounds. Such a move would undermine science-based policy making in Europe, according to the industry group EuropaBio.

The result will be to allow member states to opt-out of a product approval system simply because of political preference ? without any scientific reasoning, says Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio?s Director of Green Biotechnology. ?The debate reveals very clearly how politicised science has become in European policy making,? he says.

Not only will farmers be denied the choice to plant GM crops, but there is there is a risk this will create a precedent that would allow other sectors and other countries to use non-scientific reasons to ban products, despite a positive safety assessment. It also threatens to undermine the single market, by allowing a proliferation of different national or regional restrictions and conditions.

Science-based assessment

Policymaking should be based on the scientific evidence of the safety of GM crops says EuropaBio, pointing out that the very strict EU authorisation process guarantees that GM crops are approved only if their safety is demonstrated in a thorough science-based assessment.

There have been almost 20 years of such safety assessments. Given this, and the world-wide consumption of more than two trillion meals with GM ingredients, without the occurrence of a single substantiated ill-effect, it is reasonable to say this technology has been demonstrated to be safe, EuropaBio claims.

EuropaBio recognises that Europe needs some route around the long-running impasse over GM crops, and supports the European Commission?s proposal, set out on 13 July 2010, to devolve decisions on their planting to member states. Under the proposal, which came before the European Parliament for a first reading this week, national governments would make that decision once a product has received EU-level safety and environmental approval.

A member state could then ban a GM crop, but only on ethical, moral or socio-economic grounds.

However, the amendment approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday would allow a GM crop to be banned on environmental grounds, regardless of having passed EU-level safety assessments.

Justifying a ban

?This vote is a clear signal from the Parliament to the Council and the Commission: the EU authorisation system should be maintained but it should be acknowledged that some agricultural and environmental effects [??.] can be cited by member states to justify a ban or restriction on GM cultivation,? said Corinne Lepage the French MEP who is the rapporteur steering the proposal through the European Parliament.

But it is clear that this would undermine science-based EU-level assessments.

Commenting in the amendment, du Marchie Sarvaas said, ?It is disappointing to see how such political voting is making Europe into a science museum rather than an economic motor driven by innovation, particularly at a time when the whole world needs to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.?

At present, six countries have explicit bans on planting GM crops, but their legal grounds for doing this are dubious. Making national concerns about environmental impacts the justification for an opt-out ? even if these are at odds with the EU-level scientific assessment - would provide a defence in the event of a World Trade Organization challenge to a ban.

As du Marchie Sarvaas? comments highlights, there are wider issues at stake here, but on the specific question of GM crops, EuropaBio argues that by delaying cultivation approvals, Europe continues to miss out on the economic benefits these products present. A recent study (The Impact of the EU regulatory constraint of transgenic crops on farm income) found that EU farmers are foregoing an additional ?440 - ?930 million each year by not being able to choose and plant currently available GM crops.

?As they contemplate the future challenges of globalisation, climate change, food insecurity and shortages of natural resources, many decision-makers continue to deny farmers the ability to use cutting edge technologies, already available to their counterparts outside the EU, to help them to deal with these same challenges,? says du Marchie Sarvaas.

The proposal to nationalise decisions on GM crops is yet to be considered by ministers in the European Council.