EU law would give biotech companies final say on national GMO bans

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(NaturalNews) A new proposal under consideration by European Union politicians would essentially give biotechnology companies the final say over whether member states can ban some of the very products they make -- GMO crops.

According to the anti-GMO activist organization Stop the Crop, environmental ministers from a number of EU member states are working on a new law about the continent-wide ban of GMO crops. The group says that the movement for a GMO-free Europe has been demanding better rights for regional or national bans for a number of years, but current proposals being talked about among the various national European governments would actually "open the floodgates" for GMO crops:

First, the proposal gives biotech companies the power to decide whether a national ban is permitted or not. If it decides it is not, the member state that wants to ban a crop has to come up with specific arguments. It is not sure whether those arguments will hold in court.

Second, if this proposal on national bans is agreed, it could give a signal to the European Commission to allow more GM crops to be grown. Whilst a number of countries would indeed ban the GM crops, others will not. The area grown with GM crops in Europe would increase. For the first time we would see herbicide-tolerant GM crops on the field.

'This proposal is unacceptable'

Barring extra measures, the organization says, the current proposal will endanger the ability to maintain GMO-free seeds, foods and feed, as contamination spreads across national boundaries through normal means. Mandatory anti-contamination methods are essential, then, as is the establishment of strict and clear liability for any users.

"This proposal is unacceptable." Stop the Crop notes. "The option in the proposal that gives biotech companies a role in decision of governments to restrict the cultivation of a GM crops should be deleted. Governments should insist with the Commission that GM crops like Pioneer's 1507 maize are not wanted."

In February, the group reports, a record number -- 19 countries -- said they were opposed to the Pioneer 1507 GMO maize. Only five countries were in favor; the rest abstained from any support or opposition. Still, one commissioner said the EU is bound to authorize the GMO maize since even the 19 countries did not represent the qualified majority needed to make any resolution binding.

Another anti-GMO organization, GeneWatch, has filed an official complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office about "missing and redacted documents showing the GM industry's influence over the government's policy and media strategy on genetically modified (GM) crops and foods."

Significant portions of documents being withheld from the public

The group said it has spent the past year battling to reveal documents that purport to show vast government contacts between the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the GMO crop lobby, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, or the ABC.

"These partial documents strongly suggest the Government is colluding with the GM industry to manipulate the media, undermine access to GM-free-fed meat and dairy products and plot the return of GM crops to Britain," said Dr. Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "The public have a right to know what is going on behind closed doors."

And yet, GeneWatch said, significant portions of the documents -- which include meeting minutes, phone call records and talking points for officials -- are still being hidden from the general public.

They include:

-- minutes and action points from a teleconference between DEFRA and the ABC held on June 10, 2013, prior to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's speech advocating a pro-GM policy on June 20;

-- the contents of a "message on media suggestions" sent to DEFRA by the ABC on April 15, 2013;

-- material referred to "as discussed" in an email sent to DEFRA by Monsanto on February 8, 2013, regarding lobbying retailers on their policies on animal feed, before the April 2013 decision by Tesco, Marks and Spencer, the Co-operative Group and Sainsbury to stop or limit sales of GM-free fed chickens and eggs; and

-- the details and outcomes of a meeting between the then-Minister of State David Heath and the ABC in January 2013 (2) and follow-up emails about this meeting.


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