Govt must protect our right to grow and eat GM free

Today, the European Parliament has passed legislation, with 480 votes for, 159 against and 58 abstentions, designed to allow EU member states to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM crops in their own territories. However, it could also allow member states to push ahead and approve the use of GM crops by farmers.

Campaign group GM Freeze says the UK Government must protect people’s right to grow and eat GM-free. The IFOAM EU Group Director, Marco Schlüter stated: “The organic sector welcomes the right of Member States to ban GMO cultivation but regrets that governments unwilling to ban GM crops will not be obliged to protect GMO-free farming from contamination. The organic sector is GM-free and it should remain this way. Organic food and farming provides environmental, economic and social benefits and in the context of increasing demand for organic products by consumers, Member States should secure the integrity of organic and non-GM food and farming by banning GMO cultivation. Cultivation of GMOs is already rendering organic production impossible in some areas and making it more costly overall. Any increase would only aggravate the situation further.”

GM Freeze has previously expressed concern about the legal basis for national bans, about the role of GM companies in negotiations and about the restrictions placed on reasons that national Governments can cite in imposing a ban. However, their greatest fears remain focused on the contamination of non-GM crops.

“Contamination incidents all over the world show that seed and pollen will spread wherever the wind, wildlife and human error take them, right along the supply chain.” says GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill.

“This directive offers no meaningful protection to people who want to make informed choices about what they are eating or to farmers who want to protect their fields from the superweeds and biodiversity loss associated with the kind of GM crops likely to be heading our way. There are no EU-wide mandatory measures to prevent contamination within an individual member state and no rules governing liability. That means it’s down to the UK Government to protect our right to grow and eat GM Free.”

“This directive will not change the situation in countries unwilling to ban GM crops. Organic and other GM-free farmers will still face the threat of contamination and the costs linked to it.” said IFOAM EU Policy Manager, Eric Gall. “We regret that the Council missed the opportunity to take a step forward in the protection of the GM-free food and farming sector by refusing to include mandatory measures to prevent contamination and a liability regime. Furthermore, this new directive cannot be a substitute for the necessary improvement of the EU risk assessment and authorisation process.”

A recent letter from Defra minister Lord de Mauley to campaign group Beyond GM promised “pragmatic rules… to segregate GM and non-GM production” but failed to mention whether or not such rules would address the concerns of over 11,000 members of the public who responded to the department’s 2006 proposals on the subject. This will only serve to raise fears amongst campaigners concerned about the environmental, social and ethical impacts of GM crops and, indeed, anyone who values choice.

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