Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - EU - 2015

European Parliament News, 16 July 2015

GMOs - GMO imports: MEPs object to draft law allowing national bans, call for plan B

A draft EU law that would enable any member state to restrict or prohibit the use of EU-approved GMO food or feed on its territory was strongly opposed by MEPs from all political groups in a debate on Wednesday. Members were concerned that the draft did not include an impact assessment, that member state measures might not be compatible with single market or WTO rules and that the proposal might prove unworkable. 

 “There is a clear majority in the European Parliament against this proposal” said Environment Committee chair Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), whose draft report recommends rejecting the draft legislation. “There is no impact assessment around this draft, and we believe that this was not the best proposal possible” he said.

 “This proposal is in conflict with the principles of “better regulation” and transparency which the new European Commission has taken on (…) After so many years we have spent on getting rid of internal barriers, this proposal could fragment the internal market and lead to border inspections, and we all worked to get rid of those, back in the day”

 “We don’t see any legal certainty emerging from this proposal (…) it’s all very vague” said Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR). Another point is the practicability of the proposal. There is also a serious problem with the notion of “use”, which is a very imprecise term” he said.

 “We voiced concerns over this proposal, on its incompatibility with the internal market and WTO rules” said Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, BE). “We also have serious doubts about the workabilityy of the proposal (…) My group supports you report and your proposal to reject the Commission proposal” he told the rapporteur.

 “We need a new proposal”

 “Lots of terms used in the Commission proposal are legally undefined” said Gesine Meissner (ALDE, DE). “Too much is being left to chance, and this could be harmful to the internal market. The implementation of this proposal would be impossible. We should reject it, but if nothing follows from the Commission, this doesn’t help to solve the problem. We must have a new, better proposal, or we could come up with a counter-proposal on our own” she said.

 “I think that this is to ensure a quick and easy authorization procedure rather than truly addressing the problem” said Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, IE): This proposal is a dishonest one, offers a false solution to a problem. I agree that we should reject this half-baked proposal from the European Commission which is totally flawed. We need to start again, to have a new text that would ensure that GMOs cannot be authorized when a majority of member states are against them”

 “Maybe we have to congratulate the Commission on managing to unite Parliament” said Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL). “We are also very critical, maybe for other reasons than the rapporteur” (…) however, “If we reject the report, we should at least demand a new proposal (…) will the Commission come back with a new proposal based on the alternative scenarios you worked on?” he asked.

 “This proposal just doesn’t work” said Eleonora Evi (EFDD, IT) I agree that if we reject this proposal, I would like the reassurance that a new one would be forthcoming. We don’t just want to reject it and have this very important issue, which needs to be tackled, forgotten.” “Once again, subsidiarity has to be at the heart of the work that we do. We have to be extremely cautious” Said Mireille D’Ornano (ENF, FR)

 “There is no plan B”

 “I ask you to reconsider your position towards this proposal” said the European Commission representative Ladislav Miko. “Our Commissioner gave a very clear answer already: we don’t have any plan B for this proposal (…) If the proposal is rejected, we will stay in the current situation”. Mr Miko said that the flexible definition of the term “use” is intentional, in order to accommodate differing practices in the member states. He dismissed the alleged effects on the single market: “in the past, safety clauses were invoked several times, and this was never considered a problem for the internal market” he said.

Next steps

The Environment Committee will vote on the proposal on 12-13 October. The file will then be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the 26-29 October plenary session in Strasbourg.

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