Many consumers don’t trust genetically-modified food and the companies that are behind it. On the whole, they do not warm to the idea of scientists manipulating genes of crops and animals in a lab which go into what they eat. At the very least they want to know when they are consuming GM food.
If the European Commission, under heavy lobbying from biotech and seed companies, continues on its path to deregulation of New GMOs, then consumers will lose their right to know – to know through clear labelling, that there are GMOs in their food. They will also lose the guarantee that their food has undergone a through risk assessment.
Why does GMO risk assessment matter?
New GMOs do not have a long history of safe use. In fact, they have no real history of use, with only three crops currently on the market (and none in Europe). There is hardly any practical experience in day-to-day business with New GMOs, under real-life conditions; neither concerning environmental aspects, nor impacts on the food value chain.
Proposals to exempt genome edited crops from regulation largely rest on assumptions about similarities between genome editing and conventional plant breeding that are not supported by scientific findings. Therefore, the safety of gene-edited crops is a mere claim and not substantiated through systematic scientific studies. Instead, numerous studies show unwanted changes both at the “on target site” and “off-target sites” of the genetic alteration. In crops these could lead to changes in the organisms’ biochemistry, including its metabolic and protein profile, which could affect its toxicity and allergenic potential.
Ensuring food safety
In order to ensure food safety, ENGA is calling on the European Commission to maintain the current regulatory oversight of GMOs for New GMOs. National and EU authorities have to carry out a food safety and environmental risk assessment based on data provided by the developers of GMO seeds. Otherwise, developers of New GMOs will be self-certifying the safety of their products, without providing any data to independent experts.
To maintain the high level of protection for human and animal health and the environment, ENGA proposes “Considerations for a Focused Case-Specific Risk Assessment in the EU” as a basis of a future regulation of New GMOs. An a priori exclusion of risks is unscientific, and only benefits vested economic interests. A responsible policy has to guarantee a thorough risk assessment before New GMOs get onto the market. The food sector bears responsibility and liability for all of its products and therefore depends on a comprehensive safety regime for all New GMOs.