2.Tossing the hot potato: Member States, the European Commission and GMOs
GM WATCH COMMENT:
Feel confused about what's going on with GMOs in the EU?
You are not alone - and that includes most Europeans!
Although no new GMOs have so far been approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, there have of late been a series of approvals of GMOs for import for consumption, even though these GMOs are very unlikely to end up being directly incorporated into food products in shops (at least, intentionally!) because of labelling and consumer opposition to GMOs.
The recent approvals of GMOs for import have not been made as a result of decisions by a clear majority of EU member states, but rather courtesy of the EU Commision, which is headed by non-elected bureaucrats who appear to see public attitudes and EU Member States' positions as something to be got around in an effort to free up the development of biotech.
In the context of what now looks very like an EU Commission GM propaganda effort (item 1), it's interesting to consider what the Commission's exact agenda is on this issue and how it fits into the wider picture of decision making within the EU.
Below (item 2) is a commendably clear article on this by Helen Holder of Friends of the Earth Europe. Helen also sent us the following comments in reply to a query from a subscriber about why the Commission was making decisions that were so out of step with the views of the overwhelming majority of the European public not to mention the position of many Member State governments.
Helen: "the Commission [is] very sensitive to issues of competitiveness and job creation (Lisbon Agenda), and industry have been able to manipulate this very effectively. The recently published Commission Industry Policy refers to a "bio-economy" in Europe as a way of fighting the threat from China and other developping countries (textiles etc).
The Commission, and particularly the current Barroso Commission, has a neo-liberal approach and take averything from the free tade angle with obviously additional pressure because of US pressure which in recent years has been focussed on the GMO dispute at the WTO.
Attached is a general article I wrote for FoE Czech republic - it doesn't really answer the question but gives an overview of the Commission approach and EU legislation.
The Commission does bully member states on this issue but countries also need to take a clear position which most are not doing. They have a responsibility here which they are not taking and are quite happy for the Commission to do the dirty work.
There will be a policy debate on GMOs at an EU Council (Environment) in the coming months where the decision making process (comitology) which allow the Commission to take a decision when the member states have not reached a qualified majority will be discussed as some countries at least are not happy about this."