NGT proposal: serious disquiet among big supermarkets and environmental groups in 3 major EU countries


It is not always the case that major environmental groups and big supermarket chains have the same message to law makers, but in a growing swell of disquiet among influential NGOs and big retailers – it is clear that the political rush to agree a controversial deregulation of New Genomic Techniques (or New GMOs) is of serious concern in many EU countries (in this case France, Germany and Austria).

In the last few weeks a coalition of agricultural and environmental organisations wrote to the French President and the French Prime Minister and called on them to address the risks associated with the EU’s planned deregulation of New GMOs. Similar concerns were also raised in an open letter to MEPs of the AGRI and ENVI Committees in the European Parliament from 9 major German and Austrian supermarket chains. Both letters came at a crucial time in the legislative process with key meetings of ministers from EU Member States as well as upcoming votes in the European Parliament.

Supermarkets raise concerns about deregulation risks

The German and Austrian supermarkets (including Denn’s BioMarkt, Alnatura, HOFER Austria, REWE Group, SPAR Austria, tegut..., UNIGRUPPE and the Austrian Retail Association) laid out a series of concerns and specific risks that they have identified in the draft legislation. They warn that, whilst they generally support the use of the latest scientific knowledge in food production – in the interest of their consumers – freedom of choice should be maintained. Organic farming should continue to be promoted and not be threatened by a deregulation. The unclear legal situation with regard to patentability of new GM crops is also a worry and needs to be comprehensively examined in advance in an impact assessment before such a far-reaching legal act becomes European law, say the retailers. 

They also raised the important issue – something which the public discourse on this legislation rarely mentions: that in times of high inflation, food price stability must not be jeopardized by new regulatory measures, thereby fueling an increase of food prices once again.

French NGOs - alarmed

In France, 13 NGOs warn in their letter that the proposed regulation totally disregards the precautionary principle, meaning that more than 90% of New GMO plants (plants in categories 1 and 2 according to the proposed legislation) will have access to French and EU markets without any risk assessment, traceability or labelling. “We are alarmed that this, if adopted as is, would allow the production and hidden marketing of almost all GMOs throughout the EU. Under the guise of wanting to regulate the marketing of NGTs, the European Commission's draft regulation removes all the protections existing today in European legislation concerning the assessment of environmental risks, traceability and labeling of products containing modified organisms,” state the NGOs. The letter highlights that this proposed deregulation will have major consequences for all citizens, and must be the subject of public debate.