EU Parliament opposes import of three herbicide-resistant GM crops
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On Wednesday, 3 February 2015 the European Parliament voted to oppose the import of three genetically modified (GM) soybeans into the European Union. It said the Commission’s proposed authorisation of GM soybeans MON 87705×MON 89788, FG72 and MON 87708×MON 89788 for use as food and feed was “not consistent with Union law” that aims at a high level of health and environmental protection. [1Draft European Parliament resolutions]
It is the third time in a few months that the Parliament clashes with the Commission over its policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In October last year, MEPs rejected a flawed Commission proposal that would give national governments a fake right to ban GMOs approved for import. They called on the Commission to develop a new proposal. [2 European Parliament resolution of 28 October 2015] In December, the Parliament also rejected the import of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603 × T25 and called for a moratorium on GMO authorisations until new rules are introduced. [3 European Parliament ]
Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Slow Food and IFOAM EU have welcomed the Parliament’s stand against the Commission. Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Today’s vote shows that GM-crops are unwanted by both people and the politicians they elect, and that the authorisation system for them is unfit for purpose. The European Commission must respect the decision-making power of the Parliament.”
Franziska Achterberg, EU food policy director at Greenpeace, said: “The Parliament’s message is loud and clear: the Commission cannot carry on taking decisions on GM crops by itself, without the backing of EU governments, parliament and citizens. The Commission needs to rethink the GMO approval system. Until it does, no new GM crops should be approved.”
Eric Gall, policy manager at IFOAM EU, said: “Importing these GM soybeans could expose consumers and farm animals in the EU to adverse effects from the herbicides they have been sprayed with  and, to date, the effects of the herbicide plus GMO combination has not been assessed. Neither have the herbicide cocktails proposed. No herbicide-tolerant GMOs should be authorised until this has been done.”
Ursula Hudson, president of Slow Food Germany, stated: "No more than 13 out of 28 EU Member States voted in favour of allowing the import of these GM soybeans into the EU, whilst an equal number has voted against. Yet, the Commission authorises them. We urgently need a new authorisation mechanism as well as clear labelling for citizens to make informed choices."
The three GM soybeans are engineered to tolerate spraying with glyphosate or a combination of glyphosate with other herbicides.  Residues of these herbicides are likely to be found on imported grains. The WHO has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not assessed the risks associated with its use on GM crops, nor the effects of combinations of glyphosate with other herbicides.  These combinations give rise to serious health concerns  and EU law requires their evaluation.  The Parliament’s objection is not binding for the Commission.
 The Parliament said “any implementing decision authorising the placing on the market of products containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified organisms in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 in its current non-functioning version, should be suspended until a new regulation is adopted on the basis of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”. European Parliament resolution of 16 December 2015: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2015-0456&language=EN&ring=B8-2015-1365
 Monsanto’s MON 87705×MON 89788 tolerates glyphosate, its MON 87708×MON 89788 tolerates glyphosate and dicamba, and Bayer’s FG72 tolerates glyphosate and isoxaflutole.
 EFSA Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance glyphosate:
 ForCare, 2015, Toxicology of glyphosate, isoxaflutole, dicamba and possible combination effects
 In a letter to Testbiotech and GeneWatch Commissioner Andriukaitis wrote that that “it is true that the legislation requires cumulative and synergistic effects of pesticide residues to be considered”. However, methods to assess these health effects are not yet available, according to the Commissioner.
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