Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has  today (Tuesday) expressed his disappointment at a vote on a Committee Opinion for the Environment Committee on the European Commission’s “confusing, muddled and quite probably illegal” proposals for EU Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their territory.

The original proposal from the European Commission sought to move much of the decision-making over cultivation of GM crops from the EU back to the Member States, raising concerns about cross-contamination, WTO issues due to the fragmentation of the single market and the legal solidity of the proposal. Smith criticised the decision as allowing GM into the EU by the back door, in that it would only take one Member State to allow cultivation and in a few years the operation of the single market would render the decision of the other Member States not to permit cultivation redundant, given the nigh impossibility of controlling intra-EU imports from GM states.
As a result, Smith and his political colleagues voted to reject the entire Opinion and focus their energies on improving the report when it is discussed in the Parliament’s Environment Committee, where the climate is more favourable to rational discussion. Today’s vote was merely on the Opinion of the Agriculture Committee to assist the Environment Committee, the lead committee on the dossier, in their deliberations. The Committee approved the Opinion as amended, by 30 votes in favour to 4 against with 10 members abstaining.
Smith said:
“The Commission’s original proposal was a mess and now the Agriculture Committee has made it worse. Devolving powers to Member States might look like a good idea in theory, but in practice it creates more problems than it solves.
“First, the report seeks to fragment the single market which is certainly going to cause problems with the WTO. When we have a single market for trade and a common agricultural policy, this is a violation of the internal market and will raise legal issues.
“Second, co-existence. Member States who opt for GM cultivation and which have weak co-existence rules open up Europe’s conventional and organic farming to contamination. While it may look like a free choice for Member States on GM, the reality of contamination is that GM will be forced upon the whole of Europe eventually. This is not what our consumers want.
“Third, while this report is attempting to devolve powers to decide to the Member States, it does so with so many restrictions and loopholes that, in practice, it is making it even harder for them to use them. The limited powers that Member States possess to ban GM cultivation are being restricted even further. Not only that, but the reasons that can be given would be open to legal challenge.
“The SNP has always maintained a sensible position on GM: while we are open to examining the possibilities, and have no problem with lab trials, we are not convinced by the case for this particular technology. There remain too many unknowns in terms of health and environmental risks; consumers have made it clear that they do not want GM products on their shelves or in their fields; and the seed multinationals have grossly oversold the potential of GM: they have had most of the rest of the world outside Europe to play with, and have come up with very little.

“The case for GM has not been made, and moving the goalposts will not resolve any of the issues.
“In the meantime I look forward to a more rational and clear-headed debate in the Environment Committee and then the Parliament as a whole.”

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