Corporate interests trump freedom of choice and biosafety
With today’s legislative proposal on new genomic techniques (NGTs), the European Commission decided to dismantle the EU’s current GMO framework threatening our health and the environment, putting in jeopardy GMO-free farming and ignoring consumers’ demand for a clear labelling of all GMOs. This goes against the call to keep NGTs strictly regulated and labelled made by an EU-wide petition which collected more than 420,000 signatures earlier this year.
The Biodynamic Federation Demeter International remains committed to GMO-free farming and breeding, alongside the organic sector. In fact, the Demeter Standard strictly prohibits the use of seed, propagation and plant material produced by NGTs. “But without traceability and labelling there is no clear basis to protect GMO-free farming. Both are essential to guarantee farmers and breeders’ freedom of choice and to avoid adding additional burden on organic and biodynamic operators” states Clara Behr, Head of Policy and Public Relations at the Federation.
While a transition to more sustainable farming practices to tackle climate change is a necessity, a weakening of the current GMO regulations is clearly not the way forward. Instead of relying on technological fixes whose benefits are unproven and with potential unintended effects and risks on our environment and biodiversity, the EU should focus on proven solutions such as organic and biodynamic farming which have demonstrated real benefits for climate and biodiversity.
Dismantling the EU’s GMO regulations would also worsen the problems of patents on seeds threatening farmers’ rights to seeds, small and medium-sized breeders, and seed diversity. Contrary to conventional plant breeding, both the processes and the products of NGTs are patentable under the EU law. Exempting new GM seeds from EU’s GMO regulations would therefore result in a flood of patented seeds on the market. For most farmers and breeders navigating through this ‘patent thicket’ will be a major challenge while increasing the monopoly of the seed industry.
Farming always starts with the seeds, as such seeds are a common good and every farmer has a right to seeds. Yet, 75% of the world’s agricultural diversity is lost today despite their importance. Instead, GMOs and their associated patents will further concentrate the supply of seeds in the hands of a few muti-national companies. On the same day that the EU Commission publishes its proposal to reform the seed marketing, the Federation would like to remind EU decision makers that addressing the current challenges of climate change starts with fostering seed diversity, by strengthening organic and biodynamic varieties.
It is now up to MEPs and Member States to safeguard the EU’s current GMO framework. Their mandate is to protect our health and the environment, to ensure the freedom of choice for farmers and consumers while safeguarding GMO-free farming. ‘The line forward is clear: Risk assessment, traceability, and labelling must be ensured for all GMOs, including NGTs’ urges Clara Behr.