HomeConsum-actorsNew GMOs, NGTs. Green light from Strasbourg to deregulation

New GMOs, NGTs. Green light from Strasbourg to deregulation

On 7 February 2024, the European Parliament in plenary session adopted, with a narrow majority (307 votes in favour, 263 against and 41 abstentions), its position on the proposal for the deregulation of new GMOs (or NGTs, New Genomic Techniques).

The Strasbourg Assembly ignored the warning of hundreds of independent scientists, including 27 Nobel Prize winners, who suggested a careful assessment of the risks to ecosystems and public health. The word now goes to the Council of Member States.

1) New GMOs, NGTs. Green light for deliberate release into the environment

The announcement by Jessica Polfjärd (EPP, SE), rapporteur of the dossier under consideration in the European Parliament, recalls the leitmotifs of Monsanto and Big Ag of the 90s of the last century, when the first GMOs were presented as the solution to the world's ills which are still unsolved, starting from 'food security' and the income crisis of the planet's farmers. (1)

'The NGTs are key to strengthening Europe's food security and greening our agricultural production. The new rules will allow the development of improved plant varieties that will guarantee higher yields, be climate resistant or require fewer fertilizers and pesticides'.

2) Risk assessment, towards greater things

The MEPs – as already announced by Paolo De Castro at the beginning of the legislature, and then proposed by the European Commission (2,3) – persevere in the attempt to exclude or nullify a priori the risk assessment of new GMOs. Nonetheless:

– the precautionary principle implies that 'If it is possible that a certain policy or action could cause harm to the public or the environment and if there is not yet scientific agreement on the issue, the policy or action in question should not be implemented' (TFEU, Article 191)

– the possible dangers for the environment and health linked to the release of new GMOs or NGTs into the environment have already been highlighted by numerous scientists, as well as by ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety), (one)

– no regulation can derogate from the principles stated in the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) which represents the constitutional basis of European law. Of which the European Commission, among other things, should be the primary guarantor.

2.1) NGTs of 'category 1'

NGTs plants are subjected to a number of generic manipulations lower than or equal to 20 are considered 'equivalent' to traditional ones by regulatory dictate - in the absence of any scientific basis, as highlighted by ANSES - and therefore exempted from risk assessment. (5)

The European Parliament rejected the amendment which provided for a preliminary assessment of the safety of this category of GMOs in the internal environment, to exclude that genetic modifications (intentional and unintentional) could:

– alter the function of genes and biochemical pathways, or behave

– an increase in levels of known toxins and allergens.

Excluded from 'category 1' NBTs designed to resist herbicides (herbicide resistant, i.e. MON 87429). (6)

2.2) NTGs of 'category 2'

The NGTs that have undergone more than 20 genetic modifications are instead placed in 'category 2'. In these cases, the risk assessment should follow a 'simplified procedure', compared to first generation GMOs, to shorten the time to market and deliberate release into the environment.

A 'simplified procedure' of risk assessment will thus also apply to new GMOs herbicide resistant, without obviously considering the long-term effects on agricultural systems. Where, as seen in the USA, the abuse of glyphosate has induced acute toxicity in agricultural systems (7,8).

3) Consumers in the dark

Seeds and NGTs plants of both categories 1 and 2 will have to undergo traceability and labelling, thanks to amendments tabled by some MEPs from the Verts/ALE and S&D groups. As:

- farmers will then be able to choose whether to purchase traditional or GMO inputs

- citizens will instead become unsuspecting guinea pigs, since the labeling obligation is not extended to foods that contain or are derived from NGTs.

4) Cross contamination, no protection

The Strasbourg Assembly rejected the amendments which required the member states to introduce:

– adequate measures to avoid inadvertent contamination of parts or residues of NGTs plants in other crops and products

– specific requirements to avoid cross-contamination (i.e. buffer zones between NGT and non-NGT crops)

– binding rules to avoid cross-contamination in the food chain

– obligation to provide information on the cultivation of NGTs, in favor of traditional and organic farmers operating in adjacent areas

- 'a liability regime and compensation fund based on an extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime to compensate operators in case of contamination in nearby fields and contamination caused by the common use of machinery, storage facilities and processing entities in accordance with the 'polluter pays' principle and the 'one health' approach.

5) Patents

MEPs have hypothesized to exclude the possibility of patenting 'NTG plants, plant material, their parts, genetic information and process characteristics contained therein'. Furthermore, this provision can only take effect if and when the biotechnology directive and the European Patent Convention are amended. Meanwhile:

- agro-finance – through the four global monopolists of pesticides and seeds (Big 4) but also through national champions such as Federconsorzi 2 alias CAI SpA created by the magic circle of Coldiretti (9,10) – could aggravate farmers' dependence on them

- farmers, cuckolded and beaten, will find themselves paying royalties even just due to accidental contamination of their fields (i.e. through pollinating insects) with NGTs (always, obviously) covered by industrial patents. (11)

6) Legislative process. Appeal to national governments

Deregulation of new GMOs can only take place if the AgriFish Council votes in favor with a qualified majority of 55% of the governments of the Member States representing 65% of European citizens.

Member States did not reach an agreement under the Spanish Presidency of the Council, as seen in December 2023, (12) nor did they find one at the last meeting of the CoRePer (Permanent Representations Committee) on 7 February.

The Belgian presidency is trying to close the negotiation which still sees the votes against of Slovenia, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and the abstention of Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Luxembourg.

7) Oligarchies vs. protesting farmers, citizens and civil society

The agro-industrial oligarchies – with the support of the large agricultural confederations (FNSA in France; Coldiretti, Confagricoltura, CIA-Agricoltori Italiani in Italy; Copa-Cogeca and Farm Europe at EU level), alongside the Big 4 (Bayer – Monsanto, Corteva ex Dow-DuPont, ChemChina – Syngenta and BASF) – are pursuing the globalist policy of deregulation in Europe.

Protesting farmers – represented by Confédération Paysanne in France, FUGEA in Belgium, La Via Campesina all over the world, and the 42 associations that join the GMO-Free Italy Coalition (13) – are instead fighting to counter the lobbying of Big Ag which devours companies family-sized and peasant farms (94,8% of the total in the EU, Eurostat 2020).

'I'm personally against everything governed by multinationals, even if it were holy water. I am also against the monopoly of pesticides and seeds that agricultural companies suffer in Italy', explains the founder of LiberiAgricoltori Furio Venarucci. More clearly aligned against GMOs are Assorurale and Altragricoltura, along with many others.

8) Italy, the citizens' point of view

Italian citizens are very worried about the consequences of the deliberate introduction of new GMOs into the Bel Paese. A very recent survey by SWG shows that:

– 70% of those interviewed consider this deregulation a serious threat to both the biodiversity that has always characterized Made in Italy. Biotech plants can easily take over traditional ones and thus undermine the great efforts made over the centuries to preserve the identity of our agri-food excellence

– 70% are also worried about the consequences on human health, also taking into account the risk of a further increase in food allergies and intolerances. It certainly cannot be predicted how human guinea pigs will react, in the long term, to the intake of foods that our DNA does not recognize

– two-thirds of those interviewed express concern about the idea that new GMOs (NGTs) could lead to an increase in the use of pesticides (as in fact already occurred with first generation GMOs. See note 8), as well as to 'accidental' contamination of traditional and organic crops

– 63% of those interviewed are clearly against the elimination of the obligation to specifically indicate on the label the presence of products that contain or derive from NTGs, as has always been prescribed for first generation GMOs. (14)

9) Italy, the position of Coldiretti and 'his' minister

Coldiretti's magic circle – who in recent weeks has achieved unprecedented unpopularity and therefore takes refuge in denouncing the protesting farmers as 'thugs', considering their demands for survival a 'micro-problem' (15) – is among other things a champion absolute twists.

The same Coldiretti which for many years has declared itself an enemy of GMOs and glyphosate and has become an avid supporter, with the support of 'its' MEP Paolo De Castro. And just when Coldiretti took control of Federbio, combination, the European Parliament tried to eliminate the ban on the use of new GMOs (NGTs) in organic farming (16,17). Ban then confirmed in the plenary assembly.

The 'brother-in-law minister' of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, herself at the height of her unpopularity, in recent days made an 'outing' declaring her actual closeness to Coldiretti since the electoral campaign. It is therefore not surprising that Francesco Lollobrigida is in favor of the deregulation of new GMOs. Likewise the deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and his former agriculture minister Gian Marco Centinaio.

10) Italy, appeal to the government

The governing parties make 'the interests of the agrochemical lobbies prevail over the legitimate demands of farmers, who emphasise the need for a truly sustainable agricultural policy that focuses on the real needs of those who work the land', explains Angelo Bonelli, spokesperson for Green Europe. (18)

The European elections are just around the corner, and it is now more necessary than ever that all parties - in government as well as in opposition, where the centre-left has split in the very vote on the dossier under consideration on 7 February - decide which side they are on. With Coldiretti and the Big Ag oligarchies or with the small farmers who are the victims, and the citizens who oppose GMO food?

Most of the time always. #CleanSpades

Dario Dongo and Alessandra Mei

Footnotes

Cover image from Corporate Europe Observatory. Take action! New GMOs need to stay checked for safety and labeled. 15.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/mry2mdrs

(1) See Dario Dongo's ebook. GMO, the Big Scam. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade, Rome, 2015). https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/ogm-la-grande-truffa/

(2) Dario Dongo. GMO, the new empire that is advancing. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.6.19

(3) Dario Dongo. New GMOs, NGTs. The European Commission's deregulation proposal. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.7.2023

(4) Dario Dongo. NGTs, new GMOs. Scientists and ANSES expose the risks of deregulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.12.23

(5) Dario Dongo. NGTs, new GMOs, deregulation advances. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.1.2024

(6) Dario Dongo. New GMOs at the service of agrotoxicants. Evidence of 9 in Monsanto's new GE corn. Petition. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.7.20

(7) Dario Dongo, Donato Ferrucci. Pesticides, acute toxicity in the US agricultural system. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.8.19

(8) Dario Dongo. Glyphosate and GMO soy, the big scam. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.1.20

(9) Dario Dongo. Seeds, the 4 masters of the world. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.1.19

(10) Federconsorzi 2 alias CAI SpA, listed on the stock exchange on Piazza Affari, is owned by both Dompè farmaceutici SpA which operates in the biotech sector, and by BF which in turn controls SIS SpA (Società Italiana Sementi)

(11) Alessandra Mei. Via Campesina unmasks the rhetoric on 'new GMOs' in 12 points. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.6.23

(12) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. New GMOs, member states hesitate on deregulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.11.23

(13) GIFT editorial team. New GMOs, last days to sign the European petition against deregulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(14) AssoBio. Italians say “NO” to the deregulation of new GMOs. MEPs protect "organic" farmers and consumers https://www.assobio.it/web16/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Assobio-Gli-italiani-dicono-NO-alla-deregulation-dei-nuovi-OGM.pdf

(15) Dario Dongo. Farmers' protest, the letter from the big boss of Coldiretti. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.2.24

(16) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti to conquer the organic sector. #Clean spades. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.7.23

(17) Dario Dongo. New GMOs in organic farming? The proposal of the European Parliament. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.10.23

(18) Green Europe. GMO? Meloni-Salvini rebels in Italy but aligned in the EU. https://europaverde.it/2024/02/07/ogm/

Alessandra Mei

Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.

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