Key Committee in the European Parliament Shows Utter Disregard for Transparency of New GMOs


In a bleak day, both for citizens’ right to know what is in the food they are eating and for the food industry, today (24 January) the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee has voted to refuse the right to know whether New GMOs (or NGTs) are in food or in value chains.

The draft law, should it be approved after trilogue between Council, Commission and Parliament, will mean that there will be no transparency and labelling of New GMOs (New Genomic Techniques, such as CRISPR/Cas) in feed and food. ENGA – on behalf of the Non-GMO food industry – calls on the European Parliament to postpone its plenary vote, scheduled for early in February, given the lack of time to debate the too many remaining open questions.

In today’s vote the majority of ENVI Committee MEPs agreed on new equivalence criteria – criteria by which it will be determined when NGTs are considered equivalent to conventional breeding – which were submitted to the Parliament at the last minute. These criteria form the centerpiece of the planned deregulation and were presented at such short notice that neither EFSA nor national authorities had the opportunity to assess them.

ENGA highlights further serious critical issues in the legislation, which remain unanswered, such as:

•    The patenting of NGTs: to exclude the patentability of category 1 NGTs, it is not enough to amend Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions; the European Patent Convention must also be amended. With this “pseudo-solution”, breeders, farmers and food companies cannot reliably exclude NGTs and may therefore be subject to patent infringement proceedings.

•    The lack of coexistence measures for agriculture and food production with and without New GMOs means that freedom of choice cannot be guaranteed. ENGA calls for the necessary measures (labeling, traceability, detection methods, EU wide binding coexistence measures).

Heike Moldenhauer, Secretary General of ENGA, said:

“With the majority of conservatives, right wing parties and liberals voting in favour of this legislation, the MEPs on the ENVI Committee have today totally ignored the wishes of both citizens and the food industry. Clearly won over by big agri/biotech lobbying, they have completely disregarded the desire of consumers and the food sector to know what they are buying and when there are GMOs in their food. This proposal is quite clearly not ready to be voted on in the plenary of the European Parliament; too many critical questions, with far reaching consequences, have not been solved. Therefore, we call on MEPs to postpone the February vote and take the much needed time for proper debate and understanding of the scientific issues.”