EU study: GMO laws needs overhaul; environmentalists protest

BRUSSELS — A new European Union study finds that the two decade-old legislation on genetically modified organisms should be revamped, a process environmentalists claim will open the door to a new generation of bioengineered crops being allowed into the EU market without proper checks.

The study is a first step by the 27-nation EU to assess the latest technologies in crop production, and the European Commission said it found that “the current 2001 GMO legislation is not for purpose” to address many issues in the future.

GMOs have divided the EU for a generation, pitting those claiming that new sorts of “Frankenfood” would irreversibly damage health and nature against those who said that revolutionary techniques were the only way to feed an ever-growing global population.

The current legislation had given environmentalists the assurance that the European Union wouldn’t become a free-for-all for agro multinationals to produce GMOs in bulk and sell them to the bloc’s 450 million citizens without detailed labeling and warnings.

Based on the new evidence, EU food safety chief Stella Kyriakides said that “New Genomic Techniques can promote the sustainability of agricultural production.”

Still, the European Commission said the study also highlighted concerns over the safety and environmental impact on biodiversity, and problems with the traceability of such products, especially when it comes to coexistence with traditional farms.

Kyriakides insisted that any business considerations should come second to consumer safety and the environment.

Still, just suggesting that the current legislation should be revamped had environmental nongovernmental organizations up in arms.

“The European Commission has fallen hook, line and sinker for the biotech industry’s spin, and has set the future of food and farming in the EU down a dark path,” said Mute Schimpf of Friends of the Earth Europe, reflecting the views of many environmentalists.

She said that the study was “suggesting tearing up decades of the precautionary principle, by allowing new GM crops onto our fields and plates without safety tests.”

EU officials were insisting though that the study was the first step in a long legislative process that needed to get approval from the bloc’s member states and the European Parliament where big changes could be made.