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POLICY & REGULATION: EU GMO policy favours corporations - not the public interest



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GMO POLICY FAVOURS CORPORATIONS - NOT THE PUBLIC INTEREST

SOURCE:  Public Service Europe, UK

AUTHOR:  Joao Ferreira

URL:     http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/884/gmo-policy-favours-corporations-not-the-public-interest

DATE:    21.09.2011

SUMMARY: "European Union policy concerning genetically modified organisms is unsatisfactory - where it relates to compliance with basic criteria like public health protection, conservation of the environment, transparency, informed consumer choice and promotion of rural and socioeconomic development. There is a conflict becoming clearer and clearer each day: the opposition between the interests of the big corporations of the agro-business sector, producing GMOs, and the rigorous application of the precautionary principle - safeguarding the above mentioned criteria. Legislators cannot be neutral on this conflict. Either they stand for corporations or they stand for the public interest."

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GMO POLICY FAVOURS CORPORATIONS - NOT THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Joao Ferreira is a Portuguese MEP and member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament

Recent regulatory developments fail to protect public health, the environment or farmers

European Union policy concerning genetically modified organisms is unsatisfactory - where it relates to compliance with basic criteria like public health protection, conservation of the environment, transparency, informed consumer choice and promotion of rural and socioeconomic development. There is a conflict becoming clearer and clearer each day: the opposition between the interests of the big corporations of the agro-business sector, producing GMOs, and the rigorous application of the precautionary principle - safeguarding the above mentioned criteria.

Legislators cannot be neutral on this conflict. Either they stand for corporations or they stand for the public interest. So far, the EU has chosen the first option. We know that GMO licensing is severely biased, since the bodies carrying out the tests are dependent on industry ? which has a vested interest in authorisations. The companies themselves carry out the tests and the associated statistical analyses. The process, therefore, lacks basic transparency rules - which are a pre-requisite to any scientific analysis.

The European Food Safety Authority is responsible, inter alia, for issuing opinions on potential GMO risks ? relating to health and the environment. To date, the opinions have all been positive for all GMOs evaluated. Several studies and independent research have raised doubts regarding EFSA?s and its agents? impartiality. Furthermore, it is a fact that the GMO licensing procedures currently in practice prevent the scientific community from verifying their conclusions. The EFSA has declared itself incapable of evaluating the long-term environmental impact of GMOs, limiting its analysis to criteria which - most probably - will not affect the interests of biotechnology corporations. And on certain occasions, the EFSA has ignored appeals by national authorities to consider specific risks.

Not unrelated to public pressure, a recent EU regulation gave member states the potential to prohibit or limit the cultivation and dissemination of GMOs - in their territories. This decision was based on acknowledged fragilities and deficiencies in the process of evaluating environmental risks. The same can also be said for health and socioeconomic risks. Therefore, if these reasons are valid for limiting cultivation and dissemination of GMOs in the environment, the same should apply to GMO commercialisation and consumption. There are no valid reasons for this not to happen. Market and business should not prevail over health and environmental protection.

But there is also another aspect to consider. It is the assessment of risk, something that is purely in the technical or scientific domain. But another thing, quite different, is to decide on the acceptability of risk. This is a political decision which, for the sake of democracy, citizens should have a say over - through the political structures that they control and are closest to them. And so it is essential to have effective implementation of the precautionary principle, the removal of GMO species that have already been introduced - thereby defending public health, the environment and farmers.

It is also necessary to reject the control of seeds by multinational GMO patent holders and their use in exploitation and submission of small and medium sized farms. It is necessary to encourage and promote sustainable production methods, small and medium local production, short chains of production-marketing-consumption and local markets - as a way to guarantee the sustainable development of rural life and national economies as well as food sovereignty.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   COURT RULINGS RE-IGNITE DEBATE ON GM CROPS

SOURCE:  European Voice, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Peter O?Donnell

URL:     http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/court-rulings-re-ignite-debate-on-gm-crops-/72025.aspx

DATE:    15.09.2011

SUMMARY: "ECJ rules on two cases involving GM maize, and both sides say decisions work in their favour. The biotechnology industry and campaigners against genetic modification have each claimed victory after two rulings from the European Court of Justice last week. The cases ? which are totally separate ? concern a genetically-modified maize from Monsanto, MON810, that was authorised in the EU in 1998. They have given renewed vigour to the European debate on the merits of genetically-modified crops."

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COURT RULINGS RE-IGNITE DEBATE ON GM CROPS

ECJ rules on two cases involving GM maize, and both sides say decisions work in their favour.

The biotechnology industry and campaigners against genetic modification have each claimed victory after two rulings from the European Court of Justice last week. The cases ? which are totally separate ? concern a genetically-modified (GM) maize from Monsanto, MON810, that was authorised in the EU in 1998. They have given renewed vigour to the European debate on the merits of genetically-modified crops.

On 6 September, the court backed a claim for compensation by a Bavarian beekeeper whose pollen and honey had been contaminated by the GM maize grown near his hives. The court established that the contamination made his produce legally unsaleable: it ruled that honey and food supplements containing pollen derived from a genetically-modified organism are foodstuffs produced from GMs, and therefore cannot be marketed in the EU without prior authorisation.

Anti-GM campaigners leapt enthusiastically on the ruling, claiming that it blew a hole in the defence embraced until now by the industry ? and by the EU ? of so-called co-existence arrangements: physical separation of GM and conventional plantations, to avoid cross-contamination.

French Green MEP José Bové said: ?This case is proof that co-existence is a fallacy and that GM cultivation does not leave a choice for GM-free products.?

Mute Schimpf of Friends of the Earth Europe saw the ruling as ?exciting and with a very broad impact, opening the way for Europe?s laws on GM crops to be strengthened?. And Greenpeace said: ?It confirms that there should be zero tolerance of GM content in food.?

French ban

Two days later, on 8 September, the court judged that a four-year-old French ban on the cultivation of the same GM maize was illegal. Responding to legal challenges from Monsanto, the court said that France had not followed the required procedures to suspend the authorisation ? notably, the French authorities had not conducted a risk assessment demonstrating a clear and serious risk to human health, animal health or the environment.

EuropaBio, the pan-European biotechnology industry group, termed the ruling ?a step towards choice in Europe?, citing seed companies and French farmers who claim the right to market and grow GM crops duly authorised at EU level.

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio?s director of green biotechnology, interpreted the verdict as confirmation that EU member states ?cannot ban GM based on myths and hearsay?.

But Jack Hunter at Greenpeace said the court ruling on the French ban was ?not a big setback for GM-free agriculture?, since it affects only how member states impose a ban, and not their right to do so. His colleague Stephanie Hundsdorfer suggested that the ruling might even give further impetus to the current discussions on legitimate grounds for national bans.

The European Commission last year proposed clarifications of how member states may choose to impose national bans on GM products that have been authorised at EU level. ?Member states will have to set out something legally sound and solid so that they are not pursued by Monsanto,? she said.

Contamination levels

The talks on the Commission?s proposals ? which cover not only permissible grounds for banning GM products, but also questions of tolerance levels for GM contamination ? are currently stalled in the Council of Ministers, pending examination of the European Parliament?s views. One of the principal sticking points is the refusal so far by member states that are firmly opposed to GM products to entertain granting EU approval to products, in return for the right to ban them nationally.

The discussions on tolerance levels are also likely to be further complicated by the ruling on honey: the consequences of the court?s definitions are that EU imports of honey from major producers ? in Argentina, Canada, Brazil and the US ? could be banned, because GM crops are widely grown there.

The prospect of challenges to the World Trade Organization has already been raised by diplomats.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   GM RULING RIPPLES ALL THE WAY TO OUR HONEY

SOURCE:  The Islander, Australia

AUTHOR:  Shauna Black

URL:     http://www.theislanderonline.com.au/news/local/news/general/gm-ruling-ripples-all-the-way-to-our-honey/2301076.aspx

DATE:    22.09.2011

SUMMARY: "A European Justice Courts ruling that honey gathered from genetically modified crops will not be able to be sold in Europe has strengthened the resolve of Kangaroo Island beekeepers to maintain the island as free of GM crops. Agriculture Minister Michael O?Brien has also re-affirmed his commitment to keeping Kangaroo Island free of GM crops ?while that is the wish of the majority of growers on the island?."

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GM RULING RIPPLES ALL THE WAY TO OUR HONEY

A European Justice Courts ruling that honey gathered from genetically modified crops will not be able to be sold in Europe has strengthened the resolve of Kangaroo Island beekeepers to maintain the island as free of GM crops.

Agriculture Minister Michael O?Brien has also re-affirmed his commitment to keeping Kangaroo Island free of GM crops ?while that is the wish of the majority of growers on the island?.

There is a current moratorium on GM crops in SA until 2014, and the minister confirmed there was ?no convincing argument that allowing GM crops would have a positive impact for the state?.

Speaking about the European ruling, KI Organic Honey managing director Peter Davis said the ruling would affect ?the whole world?.

?There were some on the island who were in favour of GM crops but now we are seeing premiums for our crops and honey because they are GM-free,? Mr Davis said.

He said the loss of 80 per cent of hives in some parts of Europe had alerted the world to the sensitivity and importance of bees to the food chain.

He said chemicals used in agriculture were mostly to blame for Colony Collapse Disorder but that it was not an issue on Kangaroo Island.

Farmers here were conscious of chemicals used on their crops and in many cases had to be very transparent because of the premiums being sought for clean crops.

?We?re also fortunate to be a sanctuary and have distance on our side but it must stay that way.

?Governments are becoming aware of these issues but they are still at the talking and working out stage and we need them to be bold in supporting beekeepers,? Mr Davis said.

Minister O?Brien will have lunch at Parliament House this week with a delegation of Japanese

buyers hosted by Kangaroo Island Pure Grain.

?KI Pure Grain has established a niche market in Japan for GM-free canola grown on Kangaroo Island. KI Pure Grain is able to obtain a significant premium over commodity canola prices due to being segregated and traceable and of warranted origin.?

?It?s my view that Kangaroo Island should remain GM-free? regardless of whatever may happen in the rest of South Australia.?

Mr Davis said the European ruling could open new markets for Kangaroo Island honey. He was already speaking to a potential buyer in Italy.