They Are Labeled

Barbara H. Peterson

Farm Wars

If a new proposal passes, Monsanto and Syngenta get to decide whether or not to ban their own products in the EU. But don’t worry, at least some of them will/might… okay, let’s get real – there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that anything will be banned, but a minute portion will have misleading labels. I feel safer already!

The awkward EU vote on Pioneer’s GM maize last February created the feeling of urgency that something needed to change in the way GM crops are approved. While nineteen countries voted against, and only five in favour, the Commission still intends to give Pioneer GM maize the go-ahead. That does not look good.

The proposal to hand back some decision powers to member states regarding GMO approvals has been discussed on and off for some time now.1 Of course initially the biotech firms were very opposed to the idea of national bans. But the current text clearly has the biotech lobby’s fingerprints all over it. Now they see it as an opportunity to break the legal and political stalemate and finally get their GM crops growing in Europe’s fields, despite their unpopularity. LINK

You see, it’s not the labeling laws that scare them, it’s the local bans. GMOs are already labeled in the EU. This is why the biotech industry and its minions are proposing this. If they can get governments to pre-empt local legislation banning the growing of GMO crops, and give the final say-so to the very companies that create GMOs, they “win.” Or so they think. Labeling? That’s a dog and pony show. A ruse. A high dollar misdirection to lead people away from the real fight, and that is a local ban in every county, every region, every community. This must be pre-empted by friendly sounding legislation that is in no way friendly to anything but the biotech industry. 

Documents (link is external) obtained by way of Freedom of Information acts by UK group GeneWatch show how Brussels biotech lobby group EuropaBio has been advocating precisely this approach for two years. One three-page document entitled, ‘A new strategy on GM issues’ probably dates to 2012. The paper concludes that a new approach is needed to break the standstill on GM crops in Europe. This includes an “amended nationalisation proposal” putting as a condition that member states can only apply for a national ban if they have first asked the company to refrain from marketing the GM crop in their country, and if the company has refused. LINK

Yup, you read that right.

As it stands, the current text proposed by the EU Presidency (currently Greece) – see attached – states that for a member state to ban a GMO, they would first have to ask the GM company itself not to market it in their territory. If the company does not agree, the member state’s second option is to give certain policy arguments, from a limited set of possibilities2. This is the second major weakness in this proposal: these types of arguments bring great legal uncertainty and may simply not hold up when challenged in court. LINK

Hey, Monsanto and Syngenta! We don’t want your GMOs grown here! Oh yeah? Well we don’t approve your ban and are going to grow it anyway. Just what are you going to do about it? Not much, since the government appears to be in bed with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council…

The set of documents released to GeneWatch also indicate a close relationship between lobby groups EuropaBio and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), and the GM team in the UK Ministry of Environment DEFRA. An email sent by EuropaBio giving “input” to the UK team sent on 17 April 2013 following an earlier meeting advised the team to “give the message a strong environmental (but of course also innovation and competitiveness) spin”. EuropaBio advised caution in messaging on ‘nationalisation’, “even if it may appear tempting at first sight to link the GM issue with a ‘devolution from Brussels’ agenda”. The GM team wrote back the same day: “We prefer the word ‘focus’ to ‘spin’” and explained the particularities of a national ban in the case of the UK. LINK

And just who is this Agricultural Biotechnology Council?

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council is a UK based lobby group whose membership only comprises the six largest agrochemical multinationals: BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta. ABC itself is a member of EuropaBio. Genewatch has published a detailed assessment (link is external) of the many emails released following their FoI request on the UK industry lobby. They show the extent of receptiveness of people inside the government to industry influence on issues like science and research funding, GM regulation, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). LINK

And just how long will it be before the EU is overrun by GMOs just like we are in the US? But not to worry, like I’ve said time and time again, a small percentage just might be labeled accurately… maybe…

©2014 Barbara H. Peterson

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3 Responses to “EU GMO Regulation Handed Over to Biotech Industry?”

  1. KP says:

    Its the 0.9% that is interesting. It suggests that Govts recognise GMOs as poisonous in concentrations above that, but they are willing to take the risk on them killing us below that.

  2. Hugh Mann says:

    This does not surprise me one bit. This is no different than the police departments policing themselves with internal affairs. We live in an bassackwards world ruled by criminals.

  3. wolvenwood says:

    Great article Barbara, thanks!
    I do have one small point though:
    “Labeling? That’s a dog and pony show. A ruse. A high dollar misdirection to lead people away from the real fight, and that is a local ban in every county, every region, every community.”

    When GMOs started to be labeled, no one in Europe bought any of that stuff. This was a clear message to the govt that no one wanted their poison. Even farmers burned down fields where GMOs were planted. They were able to keep Europe from being overrun by GMOs. So labeling does help. It does seem, though, that Big Ag is determined to run roughshod over the People. I think we need laws to reign in all corporations as well. They used to be tightly controlled by the govt but that has all changed.