> Explaining the EU Commission's Pro-GMO Stance - The Food Safety Company Explaining the EU Commission's Pro-GMO Stance - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 16 December 2016

    Explaining the EU Commission's Pro-GMO Stance

    Genetically modified 'Golden' rice (right) compared to plain white rice
    Back in October, Vytenis Andriukaitis, a member of the European Commission with a focus in food safety, was snubbed in his attempt to convince the European Parliament to adopt a plan which would allow EU member states to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. In other words, whereas the European Commission was all-for GMO pro-choice between EU member states, the European Parliament decided overwhelmingly to have the pro-GMO policy imposed across the board instead. Why, then, did this clash of two great branches of the European Union occur?

    GMOs are a hot topic in food safety nowadays. However, because the term’s definition seems to vary depending on who you ask, a real ‘GMO’ is notoriously hard to distinguish. Plants, like all organisms, get their traits from genes; and different genes provide different traits (sweetness, sourness, crunch, shelf-life and so on). To some, all a ‘GMO’ is, is the result of promoting the genes which yield particularly desirable traits (say, by choosing to next year plant the seeds from an apple tree which yields particularly sweet apples, rather than those of the tree which yields small, bitter ones).

    To others, this process – due partly to the way in which it is conducted (in the sterility of a laboratory) and partly to concerns regarding the safety of such a practice – is unacceptable.

    The Commission, it seems, was voicing the concerns of the latter such demographic: the many Europeans whom, as Euro Observer reports, ‘are sceptical of the safety of GMOs.’

    The European Parliament, meanwhile, was fully against the provision of an opt-out choice for different EU member states, claiming the plan devised by the Commission was ‘“wrong”, “a serious mistake”, "half-baked”, “shoddy work”, full of “legal loopholes” and posing a “risk of undermining the single market."’ The EU generally tends to strive for uniformity in the rules across its member states. Indeed, this year more than ever, especially with Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union, it’s important for the EU to establish itself as a centralising force once more. 

    Nevertheless, when it comes to GMOs, it’s hard to imagine that this was the only reasoning behind the Parliament’s move. After all, most credible scientific organisations assert there is a far smaller risk associated with GMOs than campaigners would have us believe.

    The enforcement of the Parliament’s decision, therefore, was not merely backed by the political context, but also the scientific one. Whether this makes it the right decision, however, is debatable. 

    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.
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