Slow Food calls for new GMOs to remain strictly regulated and clearly labelled!

Today over 35 organizations are launching the pan-European campaign

On April 12, Slow Food together with over 35 organizations from across Europe, are launching a petition addressed to national policymakers and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to take a stand against the European Commission’s plan to deregulate new genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Slow Food international will be campaigning alongside several of its regional and national offices, namely Slow Food Europe, Slow Food Deutschland, Slow Food Nederland, and Slow Food Italy.  

“It is essential that Europeans understand what is at stake: the way discussions are going between our European leaders, we risk that the labelling of new GMOs no longer be mandatory. This would completely contradict the commitments made by the EU to empower citizens to make sustainable food choices through improved transparency. We do not call for a ban of new GMOs: we simply ask that the rules that are in place to guarantee our safety, freedom of choice, and protect our planet be applied. We turn to our ministers and MEPs to listen to their citizens! “, comments Madeleine Coste, policy officer at Slow Food Europe.  

For years, agri-food lobbies and corporations have been trying to convince the European institutions to exclude new GMOs from current European GMO regulations, which means they may no longer be traceable, risk-assessed nor labelled. In other words, farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers would no longer be able to reject GM products and opt for GM-free choices.  

Unfortunately, the European Commission is falling into the trap, and wants to make it easier for the agro-biotechnology industry to develop and commercialize new GMOs. In 2020, the Commission published a study that showed their clear desire to explore the possibility of deregulating new GMOs. Several European countries also seem to be in favor of opening that door.  

As the European Commission plans to submit a proposal to regulate new GMOs (“new genomic techniques”) in the coming months, we are calling on every EU citizen to sign our petition to urge European and national policymakers to take a strong stand against any attempts to exclude new GMOs from the existing EU GMO legislation. Indeed, once the European Commission has made its proposal for new legislation, Member States and the European Parliament will have the power to adopt or reject the proposal.  

It is an important opportunity for citizens’ voices to be heard on the EU stage, on a topic that will have a direct impact on their daily lives. We must mobilize against agribusiness’s scheme to get rid of labelling rules and have lower safety checks.  Having these processes in place means consumers can retain their right to take well-informed decisions about the food they eat, and farmers, breeders and food processors can tell whether a product is a GMO or contains GM ingredients.  

To sign the petition click here

Background Information 

Why does the European Commission want to deregulate new GMOs? 

For decades, farmers and citizens have been told that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can help fight the effects of climate change on agriculture. According to the agricultural biotechnology industry, genetically engineering the genes of plants, animals, and other living organisms, will revolutionise the way agriculture is being done, and will allow farmers to continue growing crops given new traits to defend themselves against the pressures of climate change. A new generation of GMOs are being developed and risk making their way onto our plates. These “new GMOs” are presented by the industry as simply being modern plant breeding techniques but this is a gross misrepresentation. The European Commission is falling into the trap, and wants to make it easier for the agro-biotechnology industry to develop and commercialise new GMOs!   

Will deregulating new GMOs make the EU’s food system sustainable?  

In a report published in April 2020, the European Commission claims new GMOs could contribute to sustainability and should therefore be exempt from the EU’s GMO laws. However, this claim is not substantiated and relies on unverifiable promises by GMO developers and associated lobby groups.  Moreover, GM agriculture fosters the development of intensive monocultures, and in no way addresses the root causes of unsustainable food systems. Slow Food has a long-standing position against GMOs due to the risks they present to biodiversity, the threats they pose to small-scale farmers’ livelihoods, and to the fact that they are incompatible with an agricultural system based on agroecology.  

Will I be able to continue choosing food free of GMOs if they are deregulated?  

In 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that new GMOs fall under the scope of the EU’s GMO legislation of 2001 following the precautionary principle. This means that they are subject to EU authorization, to risk assessment, GMO labelling and traceability to guarantee farmers, food producers and consumers the right to know whether a food product contains GM organisms or not. Yet now the European Commission wants to change the law to exclude some GMOs from the EU’s GMO regulations, meaning that these rules would no longer apply and labelling of new GMOs may no longer be mandatory. This would mean that farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers can no longer reject GM products and opt for GM-free choices. 

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