MPs call for reform of EU’s ‘flawed’ rules on GM crops

Europe’s approval system for genetically modified (GM) crops is “fundamentally flawed”, say MPs.The process assumes GM plants pose greater risks than conventional plants, which is not backed by scientific evidence, the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee report says.It calls for GM crops to be regulated on the basis of their characteristics not the method used to produce them.Opponents say GM may have an impact on wildlife and needs careful scrutiny.
EU countries recently agreed to give individual nations more power to decide whether or not to allow GM crops to be grown on their territory.But the committee said there was a need for more radical reform to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population, using fewer resources, under a changing climate.In their report, Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk and precaution, MPs say agricultural innovations could be hindered, or even halted, by inappropriate regulation.The committee’s chairman, Andrew Miller, said: “Opposition to genetically modified crops in many European countries is based on values and politics, not science.
“The scientific evidence is clear that crops developed using genetic modification pose no more risk to humans, animals or the environment than equivalent crops developed using more ‘conventional’ techniques.”Unfortunately, the way the EU’s regulatory system works means that countries opposed to genetically modified crops can block their growth in other countries.
“This has driven research activity out of the EU and put at risk the UK’s ability to be a global player in advancing agricultural technology.”But organic food and farming group the Soil Association said research had shown that GM crops could have a negative impact on wildlife.Policy director Peter Melchett said: “In our evidence to the committee, the Soil Association reminded them that the UK government had spent millions of pounds of public money over five years, researching whether GM crops would be beneficial or damaging for British wildlife.”This research found that, overall, GM crops would have a negative impact on farmland, birds, wild flowers and other wildlife, something which the committee, despite its emphasis on the importance of scientific evidence, fails to mention.”And Liz O’Neill, director of campaign group GM Freeze, said: “The committee is keen to focus on the traits created by genetic modification rather than the process itself, but fails to recognise that the crops waiting in line for approval in the EU all share the GM traits that are associated with declining wildlife and flourishing super-weeds in the USA.”You can’t currently separate the two, and even if you could, genetic modification is not ‘cut and paste’ with DNA.”There is much that can go wrong, so it is entirely appropriate that crops produced by this complex process should be carefully scrutinised before being released into our environment and on to our plates.”