This sets a dangerous precedent for the European regulatory system and threatens both the internal market and farmer choice, says the NFU.
Under the proposals, the legislation will also be revised so that member states will be able to decide on whether to ban the growing of GM crops in their region for socio-economic or cultural reasons with no regard to health or environmental safety.
While the NFU believes a way must be found to unblock the stalemate on GM authorisation in Europe, there must be a sound basis of scientific evidence in making decisions. With this package, the Commission has essentially absolved itself of any responsibility on a highly sensitive issue.
The NFU is concerned that the proposals agreed set a precedent for how other politically sensitive issues could be dealt with in Europe.
NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser Dr Helen Ferrier said: “Instead of giving reassurances to support an effective and rigorous authorisation process for GM across the EU, this proposal is all about enabling countries to ban the growing of GM crops. The NFU represents all methods of farming and growing and has always believed that any GM legislation should be based around sound science, rather than politics or emotional rhetoric. Ultimately, the market will decide if British growers use the technology. Effective coexistence is essential for farmers to make the choice between organic, conventional and GM. But the approach announced will cause serious problems with the internal market.
“We’re very concerned that instead of making decisions based on science, member states can now legitimately use coexistence measures to restrict GM plantings and to lower labelling thresholds at either national or regional levels. This has the potential to severely disrupt internal markets and cause uncertainty throughout the agriculture and food supply chains, as well as add further confusion for consumers.
“It may also lead to severe political and legal pressure on national governments and compromise their ability to make science-based policy decisions about GM crops.
“We’re against an approach that could put our farmers and growers at a disadvantage with our competitors, both across the EU and abroad. I believe this decision sends a clear signal to the rest of world that the EU lacks interest in innovation and new technologies for a competitive agriculture industry and that it doesn’t use evidence and science in its decision making. The very real danger is that it risks discouraging technology companies investing in Europe.
“The NFU wants to see an inclusive and transparent proposal for the future authorisation of GM crops that enables farmers and growers to have the choice of accessing the very best technologies available to their competitors across the world. The UK government mustn’t rush ahead to set coexistence rules when we don’t have any crops close to commercial cultivation in this country.”
Source: National Farmers Union
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