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EU genetic engineering deregulation plans about to fall?

EU genetic engineering deregulation plans about to fall?

There are plenty of reasons. Back in July, when the EU Commission's plans for deregulation of genetic engineering legislation became official, there was great outrage and rejection of the plans. A broad front, especially German consumers, producers, manufacturers, the trade and not least plant breeders, rejected the use of the so-called new genomic techniques (NGTs), or New Genetic Engineering for short, such as CRISPR. For good reasons such as the violation of the precautionary principle and freedom of choice, the circumvention of risk assessment as well as serious, negative impacts on agriculture and ecosystems. Opposition comes not only from the organic sector but from the entire food industry, which has a strong interest in being able to continue to offer GM-free food.

The graphics @VLOG show the expectations of German consumers to label all GMOs.

Legal opinion: Precautionary principle and freedom of choice in danger

A legal opinion commissioned by the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group shows how the deregulation proposal of so-called 'New Genomic Techniques (NGTs') presented by the EU Commission violates the precautionary principle. Martin Häusling, Greens' agricultural policy spokesperson in the European Parliament and member of the Environment and Health Committee, responsible for the parliamentary work on the deregulation proposal, comments:

"The legal opinion on the EU Commission's deregulation proposal for New Genetic Engineering clearly shows: the precautionary principle is obviously being trampled on here. The possible effects of the release of genetically modified organisms into sensitive ecosystems are ignored, consumers are to be deprived of the possibility of deciding for themselves whether or not they want to eat genetically modified food. Martin Häusling

The legal opinion also shows that the exclusion of New Genetic Engineering from EU genetic engineering law is not scientifically justified: neither by lower risks nor by a greater benefit of NGT plants for the general public compared to other GMOs, Häusling said. "The legislative proposal accepts that NGT plants, which may subsequently prove to be harmful to humans or the environment, will spread in the natural environment in such a way that they can no longer be retrieved later on. The legal opinion concludes: "If the Union legislator were to adopt the regulation as proposed by the Commission, it would be making a manifest error of assessment and exceeding the limits of its regulatory leeway due to the contradictions described.

Against consumer wishes - in the interest of the agricultural industry

The deregulation proposal propagated by the agricultural industry and taken up by the EU Commission essentially consists of removing plants and plant products from the current genetic engineering legislation if they have been produced with the tool of new genetic engineering, such as Crispr Cas. These plants and their products would then no longer have to undergo a risk assessment before being approved for the market and would not have to be labelled as genetic engineering. This concerns more than 90% of all applications of new genetic engineering, explains Martin Häusling (photo). He comments: "This accelerated procedure, which is much more favourable for the producers of genetic engineering varieties, is justified by an artificially created equivalence of the genetically engineered varieties of the so-called category 1 with plants that could have been produced by conventional breeding techniques. In addition, the EU Commission attaches the label 'sustainable' to these genetically engineered plants, claiming that their cultivation requires less pesticides than the cultivation of other plants and that they could also be useful in the fight against climate change, e.g. through drought-resistant varieties. But is there any scientific evidence of this from the agricultural industry and the EU Commission? Unfortunately, there is none!"

Häusling's conclusion is clear: "New genetic engineering is also genetic engineering and must remain regulated in EU genetic engineering law. Without loopholes, without exceptions and without ifs and buts! Because precaution is better than aftercare, the effects of the uncontrolled spread of genetic engineering plants would be absolutely negligent. The associated risks are not worth the propagated benefits - which are still only wishful thinking." M. Häusling

Consumers do not want to be deceived

The Association for Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG) also advocates a complete legal labelling obligation for all GM foods. VLOG demands that 'Ohne GenTechnik' should also be without new genetic engineering and has commissioned a consumer survey for this purpose: 81% of those who know the 'Ohne GenTechnik' label expect it to also exclude new genetic engineering such as CRISPR. The opinion research institute Civey asked 1,162 people whether they expect a product labelled with this label to also be free of components from new genetic engineering processes such as CRISPR. A total of 81% of the respondents answered in the affirmative. 70% even clearly answered "yes, definitely", 11% "rather yes". Only 9 % do not have this expectation (6% "definitely not", 3% "rather no"), 10% are undecided. Foodwatch had previously surveyed consumers. The result: an overwhelming majority of Germans are in favour of food produced with the help of "new" genetic engineering having to be tested and labelled. This is a clear signal to Federal Minister Cem Özdemir to lobby in Brussels for complete labelling of genetic engineering, explains Foodwatch.

"The citizens want to know what they are eating: An overwhelming majority clearly says no to genetic engineering without labelling and safety testing. Cem Özdemir must not bow to the interests of the agricultural lobby, but must stand up for environmental and consumer protection in Brussels!" Manuel Wiemann/ Foodwatch

96% of those surveyed were in favour of a safety check on plants that have been genetically modified using new methods. 92% are of the opinion that genetically modified food must be labelled - regardless of whether new procedures or classical genetic engineering was used.

"Consumers do not want to be deceived. Their expectations are consistent and clear: 'Without genetic engineering' should also not contain any new genetic engineering, despite all attempts by the EU Commission and genetic engineering producers to exclude new genetic engineering methods such as CRISPR from regulation and to foist them on consumers without labelling," comments VLOG managing director Alexander Hissting (photo). "If the EU Commission succeeds with its plan, it would be unclear for many foods without the label whether they contain genetic engineering. For producers and retailers in the "Ohne Gentechnik" and organic sector, it would be an enormous challenge and costly to continue to guarantee the GMO-free status of their products without a legal labelling requirement," said Hissting.

Anuga meeting of VLOG and AöL on GM labelling

On 10 October at 11:00 a.m., VLOG and the Association of Organic Food Producers (AöL) invite you to the Anuga event "Obtaining full GM labelling for the benefit of consumers and the food industry" with representatives of companies and the press at the Congress Centre East of Koelnmesse, conference room 1-2.

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