Did EU Ministers OK 'Poisoned Chalice' That Will Open Floodgates to GMO Crops?

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Common Dreams

Did EU Ministers OK 'Poisoned Chalice' That Will Open Floodgates to GMO Crops?

Decision by EU environment ministers could make it harder for states for avoid biotech-bullying, critics warn.

Button in French reads: GMO? I don't want any. (Photo: Daniel/cc/flickr)

In a decision denounced by green groups, European Union environment ministers on Thursday approved a proposal to give individual member states the authority to ban genetically modified crops that have received EU Commission approval.

But, as Bloomberg noted, "The draft law aims to accelerate endorsements at EU level of requests to plant gene-altered seeds made by companies such as Monsanto."

Friends of the Earth Europe criticized the vote as "a poisoned chalice which could open Europe's fields to more biotech crop."

"It is unacceptable that companies like Monsanto will be given the first say in any decision to ban their products," stated Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for the organization. "Governments must be able to ban unwanted and risky GM crops without needing the permission of the companies who profit from them."

Also criticizing the approval were the Greens in the European Parliament, who called the ruling a compromise that is "a Trojan horse."

Like Friends of the Earth's position, Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said the decision "risks finally opening the door to genetically-modified organisms across Europe, in spite of mass public opposition."

In addition to concerns over possible cross-contamination of crops, Staes added, "There are clear concerns that the opt-outs would not be legally sound and would be subject to legal challenges, leaving member states or regions isolated to defend their stance."

Both groups see the possibility of the new rule putting more power into the hands of corporations who make genetically modified seed.

Shimpf called it "unacceptable that companies like Monsanto will be given the first say in any decision to ban their products."

"Any new approval procedure should not be a tool for the Commission and biotech-corporations to bully EU member states into accepting authoriaations for GM crops for which legitimate concerns clearly exist," Staes stated. "The EU should instead respect the precautionary principle and take account of the consistent and legitimate opposition to this controversial technology."

"At a time when American consumers and farmers are waking up to the negative consequences of biotech firms like Monsanto, Europe should not abandon the more sensible approach it has championed for decades," Staes added.

The proposal now heads to the European Parliament.

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