The European Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent for EU legislation by ignoring scientific advice on genetically modified crop varieties, the NFU has warned.
MEPs have backed a report, based on proposals from the European Commission (EC), which would allow Member States to disregard advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, such as socio-economic factors.
Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said the MEP report contained a variety of measures that would not only threaten the single market but also seriously hinder progress towards sustainable agriculture in the EU.
’The measures proposed could have a serious and detrimental consequence for farmers, consumers and scientists on all sides of the GMO debate,’ said Dr Ferrier.
’We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence. This stance could discourage scientific research and investment in the EU which are crucial for sustainable agriculture. This is not the way to mend a dysfunctional regulatory process.
’Many MEPs have expressed a fear about the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops. Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together. However, this must be based on sound science and market mechanisms to allow farmers the choice over which crops to grow.
’Farmers need all the tools available to them to contribute to ’sustainable intensification’. With the world population set to grow to nine billion by 2050, Europe must be in a position to contribute towards global food security.
’We believe a common authorisation procedure with common evaluations of health and environmental safety will best serve EU farmers, consumers and the environment.’
Dr Ferrier also welcomed the recent and long-awaited statement of the UK Government’s policy on GM crops in England.
’In line with the NFU’s biotechnology policy the Government says decisions to authorise GM crops must be science-based. It says there must be choice for farmers and consumers and recognises there are benefits in using GM technology in agriculture. It confirmed that the UK is not in favour of the EU proposal.
’There are no quick fixes but we will continue to work with the Government and through our Brussels office to get these messages across,’ she said.