BIO Welcomes GM Product Approvals but Opposes EU Move to Undermine International Obligations
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) welcomes the European Commission’s decision to approve seventeen genetically modified (GM) food and feed products that have been long delayed by political interference, some of which received a positive European scientific opinion as far back as November 2013.
However, news of the approvals is greatly overshadowed by the EU proposal for legislation to break from the single market and its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments by enabling individual member states to ignore scientific consensus and block the use of imported GM products at the national level.
Under the proposal, individual member states will have the ability to reject the scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission’s decision to approve imports of GM products creating tremendous uncertainty for U.S.-EU trade in important agricultural commodities.
“This proposal adds a third layer to the already lengthy and uncertain European approval process,” says Jim Greenwood, BIO President and CEO. “This undermines international scientific consensus, Europe’s obligations under the WTO and arbitrarily shuts off European consumers from accessing healthy, affordable and quality agricultural commodities from the United States and other major supplying nations. This is a major step backwards in U.S.-EU trade relations and represents a complete lack of transparency.”
BIO also points out that the proposal raises major concerns for GM products currently under EFSA review and for a robust pipeline of innovative products that will be submitted for import approval going forward.
“As we look to the future, the ability to commercialize new products needed to address both climate change and a growing world population depends on science and risk-based regulation that is both predictable and timely,” says Greenwood. “The world cannot afford innovation to be captive to politics.”
BIO is part of the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA), a broad section of the U.S. food and agriculture industry. In a recent letter to Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Directorate General Health and Food Safety, the USBCA asked for the following:
- A commitment to uphold and not fragment the EU's single-market for imported GM crops.
- A commitment for respect of existing law while the review is underway. The review must not be used to further delay decisions on products that have completed all risk assessment and administrative procedures and only await final Commission action.
- A commitment that the result of the review shall not be retroactive and create additional delays for products in the regulatory queue.
- A commitment to ensure regulations are consistent with the EU’s obligations under the WTO SPS agreement, and to meet the timeline of 18 months (from submission to approval) of GM import dossiers provided for in the current approval procedure.
- A commitment to maintain the role of the EFSA risk assessment process and to provide sufficient resources for EFSA to complete its task in a timely manner, and a commitment to develop a practical and more efficient science-based risk assessment process for stacked biotechnology events.
- A commitment to complete the review no later than the six-month deadline from installation of the new Commission (30 April 2015).
- A commitment to full transparency during conduct of the review including regular consultation with stakeholders.
- A commitment to providing for EU access to the global supply of proven safe crop products enhanced through the use of biotechnology in the interest of EU agriculture and consumers.
- A commitment to establish a policy covering the low-level presence of biotechnology traits that is commercially feasible and for the Commission to participate formally in the Global Low Level Presence Initiative.