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'New genetic engineering' must not endanger organic farming!

Genetic engineering has been a threat to biodiversity, organic farming, the environment and consumer choice for decades. The organic sector and genetic engineering critics insist on the so-called precautionary principle and the labelling of genetically modified organisms. This applies to both "old" and "new" genetic engineering and was confirmed as the legal position by the European Court of Justice in 2018. However, since 2019, the EU Commission has been trying to bring about changes in the existing EU genetic engineering law. The consequences will be discussed at the event "GMO-free Europe 2022" on 17 November 2022 in the European Parliament. It is hosted by the Greens/EFA Group and the European Initiative to Save Our Seeds and organised by IFOAM Organics Europe.

The majority of consumers is critical about GMOs in agriculture and food.

Far-reaching consequences

The amended EU legislation on new genomic technologies (NGTs) is scheduled for the second quarter of 2023. The softening of the current GMO legislation would have the consequence of exempting NGTs from regulation under EU GMO legislation. This means that the precautionary principle would no longer apply, for example, to genetically modified methods such as CRISPR-Cas. As a result, risk assessment and labelling would cease to apply, and the freedom of choice would be gone, for consumers as well as for agriculture. This must be prevented! At the event on 17 November, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., stakeholders from the agricultural and food sector, non-governmental organisations, scientists as well as members of the European Parliament and the European GMO-free Regions will shed light on the consequences of a relaxation of the law from a scientific, economic and political perspective.

"In the European Union, organic farming is by definition GMO-free, as the organic production process is prohibited under the current (Regulation 834/2007, Art. 4) and the new Organic Regulation (Regulation 848/2018, Art. 5)." (IFOAM EU)

Organisers of the events in the EU-Parliament

Status quo is the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle enshrined in EU genetic engineering law stipulates that only GMOs that have undergone a risk assessment can be approved and placed on the market. They must be labelled and traceable. In fact, this means that there are very few GMO seeds on the market and in cultivation. This is because the vast majority of consumers are still very critical of genetically modified food or reject it. The platform SOS Save We Seeds, which is critical of genetic engineering, writes: "... farmers demand the right to continue to be able to produce without genetic engineering. Deregulation of new genetic technologies would be a frontal attack on our freedom of choice and democratic self-determination over what we breed, grow and eat."

Manipulation of the DNA is not without risk. (photo WIX)

Organic farming is biodiversity protection

IFOAM Organics Europe argues against the use of GMOs of any kind in the value chain, among other things, with the protection of the genetic integrity of living organisms, which organic farming seeks to protect. This means that seeds, feed and all auxiliary inputs in production must be GMO-free and available from ecologically compatible resources.

The new genetic engineering methods, in particular CRISPR/Cas technology (also TALEN, Zinkfinger Nuclease, collective term Gene Edition) for the modification of plants, animals and microorganisms, harbour new and incalculable risks, according to scientists. This is why the EU's highest court ruled in 2018 that new genetic engineering must also be classified as genetic engineering and regulated. The interest of large agricultural and seed corporations is exactly the opposite. They argue about climate change and world hunger.

"Transparency, traceability and labelling are crucial for producers and consumers to choose GMO-free products." (IFOAM EU)

SOS: Now the stage is set in Brussels

The Save our Seeds organisation is calling on political leaders, in particular Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir and Federal Minister of the Environment Steffi Lemke, to work to maintain regulation of new genetic technologies as well. This includes: Labelling, risk assessment, authorisation, traceability, transparency, monitoring and liability.

IFOAM Organics Europe shares the same position and states that the risk of GMO contamination threatens the GMO-free food production chain and the economic well-being of farmers and producers. The maintenance and proper implementation of existing GMO legislation, including for the new genetic engineering techniques, including a risk assessment procedure and traceability and labelling requirements, is essential, they say.

Link to the petition against deregulation

Urgently stop groundless genetic engineering deregulation

At the beginning of November, the Swiss Ethics Committee demanded: "The EU Commission must urgently stop the groundless genetic engineering deregulation". In a report, the experts conclude that the chances of the new genetic engineering methods are too small to play an important role in the necessary adaptation process of agriculture to the climate crisis. On the other hand, the authors of the ECNH report fear serious negative consequences for consumers, farmers, the organic and 'without genetic engineering' economy.

Authori: Karin Heinze, BiO Reporter International

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