HomeIdeaSeed exchanges and new GMOs up for vote in the European Parliament

Seed exchanges and new GMOs up for vote in the European Parliament

The European Parliament is preparing to vote on two proposals for regulations, on the marketing and exchange of seeds (plant reproductive material) and on the deregulation of new GMOs (New Genomic Techniques, NTGs).

Following the appeal of the European Coordination of La Via Campesina (ECVC), the only organization that truly represents the interests of family and peasant farms (94,8% of the total in the EU).

1) Seed exchanges, new GMOs. ECVC letter to MEPs

'Members of the European Parliament, during the plenary session on 22-25 April you will vote on two fundamental proposals for farmers' rights to seeds and the future of European agriculture: the proposal on the marketing of plant reproductive material (MRV) and the proposal to deregulate GMOs derived from 'new genomic techniques (NTG).

The European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) represents Europe's small and medium-sized farmers, who are very concerned that these new regulations directly threaten their right to use, reuse, save and exchange their seeds, a right recognized by two international instruments. Below are our voting recommendations.'

2) Plant reproductive material

'The proposal on Plant Reproductive Material (MRV), published by the Commission in July 2023, is very worrying for farmers, as it does not implement farmers' rights to seeds at all and instead represents a step backwards for farmers' right to exchange seeds, compared to what is recognized in many national legislations.

The exchange of seeds between farmers it is not only a right, but it is also necessary to guarantee dynamic management of seeds on the farm, and therefore the adaptation of seeds to local climatic and cultivation conditions, as well as the renewal of agrobiodiversity. The text proposed by the Commission would significantly limit any exchange of MRVs between farmers, subjecting them to the same rules imposed on seed companies.'

2.1) Freedom of trade

'The Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament' – as seen (1) – 'adopted significant improvements in March 2024. ECVC calls on all Members of the European Parliament to support these necessary improvements, and in particular the following amendments:

– a stricter definition of commercialisation, according to which only transfers aimed at commercial exploitation fall within the scope of the Regulation, thus excluding the exchange of MRVs between farmers from the rules applicable to professional operators. Farmers who exchange seeds are not seed companies and must be subject to agricultural production rules, which include phytosanitary standards to ensure the health safety of these exchanges

- allow farmers to trade any type of MRV, not just the seeds, even with cost compensation. To enable dynamic seed management on the farm, the quantities exchanged must correspond to a small farmer's needs for agricultural production. However, we are not in favor of the Commission setting these quantities. They should be defined by Member States according to national circumstances.'

2.2) Heterogeneous materials, exclude NGTs and patents

'Regarding heterogeneous materials, preservation varieties, MRVs marketed to end users and preservation mixes, ECVC welcomes the introduction of these new categories, but fears that they constitute a gateway to patented GMOs (NTGs)., which would be totally incompatible with the dynamic conservation objective that justifies these new categories.

Furthermore, if the seeds marketed in these new categories are covered by a patent, farmers will lose the right to reuse the seeds of the harvest (an exception, for farmers) which applies only to varieties covered by plant variety rights. We therefore support all amendments banning GMOs/NTGs and intellectual property rights in these categories.'

2.3) Value for sustainable cultivation and use (VCUD)

'Regarding the Value for Cultivation and Sustainable Use (VCUD) examination, ECVC is totally against the introduction of a sustainability test for variety registration. Evaluating the sustainability of varieties without taking into account the agricultural system in which they are grown is absurd.

On the contrary, there is a risk that this VCUD test limits the marketing of sustainable varieties, as long as they are grown in sustainable agricultural systems such as organic farming, in favor of industrial varieties adapted for intensive monocultures. ECVC therefore fully supports the proposal to allow VCUD on a voluntary basis for fruit and vegetables (species listed in Annex I, points b, c)'.

3) NO! to the deregulation of new GMOs

'It is completely unacceptable, for farmers, the proposal to deregulate GMOs obtained with new genomic techniques, as all NGTs, products and genetic information resulting from them are patented.

Patents they are a clear violation of farmers' rights to seeds and if traceability of NTGs is eliminated (i.e. there is no mandatory publication of identification and distinction processes) farmers will be faced with contamination, patent abuse and infringement procedures of patents without any protection instrument.

Deregulate NTGs it simply means forcing all farmers to use NTGs seeds and strengthening the large seed multinationals through the patent model, to the detriment of organic and non-GMO agriculture.'

3.1) The mockery of MEPs on the patents of new GMOs

'The European Parliament, on 7 February 2024, asked to amend European patent law to prohibit the patentability of NTGs'. MEPs tried to make fun of farmers Europeans, as the writer has already reported. (2) In fact, 'neither Parliament nor the EU can change the rules of the European Patent Convention, to which other states that do not belong to the Union are parties.

Change the legislation European Union on GMOs before changing European patent legislation would leave farmers and breeders unprotected and would only benefit large multinational patent holders.'

3.2) Essential impact assessments

'Above all, Parliament should not consolidate its vote on this dossier when they are there many essential unresolved issues, such as the forthcoming EFSA opinion on the scientific basis of the proposal, scheduled for July 2024, and a study on the impact of patents which the European Commission will publish in 2025.

For all these reasons, the ECVC calls on MEPs to reject this unacceptable proposal to deregulate NTG, which was only adopted in February thanks to empty promises on patents, traceability and labelling.'

4) European elections, it's time for a change

June 6-9 Elections for candidates for the European Parliament for the 27-2024 legislature will be held in the 2029 EU countries. And something new could happen in the coming weeks.

The MEPs expiring now have one last chance to show a modicum of concern for the rights of farmers, citizens and the environment, rather than continuing to solely follow the orders of the four global pesticide and seed monopolists and the agricultural confederations at their service, Coldiretti and Copa-Cogeca (in primis). (3)

Farmers and citizens they will in turn have the opportunity to distinguish those who betray them - as almost all the expiring MEPs have done so far, precisely on the new GMOs (4) - and those who instead fight to protect them. Like the European Coordination La Via Campesina, and the writer who is running for the North-East College with a well-defined programme. (5)

#PangheClean, #PeaceTerraDignità

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Seed exchange among farmers, the EU reform. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.3.24

(2) See paragraph 5 of the previous article by Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. New GMOs, NGTs. Green light from Strasbourg to deregulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.2.24

(3) Dario Dongo. The tentacles of finance on food sovereignty and our food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.3.24

(4) Dario Dongo. New GMOs, the final betrayal. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.3.24

(5) Dario Dongo. Peace, Land and Dignity. Our movement in the 2024 European elections. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.3.24

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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