The Commission (DG SANTE) tabled its highly-anticipated review of the EU’s decision-making process for genetically modified (GM) crop authorisation on April 22 that seeks to give governments more freedom to decide on the use of GMOs on their territory. Under the plans, Member States could prohibit their farmers from using imports of biotech feed for their livestock. The long-awaited review – first announced by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2014 – prompted a scathing response from industry, NGOs & the EU’s trade partners. Industry groups (representatives of trade, feed industry & oilseed processors) fear the plan risks disrupting the internal market & endangering feed supplies as European farmers are heavily reliant on imports of protein crops. Industry representatives say the move could increase costs for EU operators, cause feed supply shortages & trade distortions (when non-authorised GM varieties are detected in shipments). Meanwhile, green NGOs have reacted angrily to the move, saying it fails on a pledge by Juncker to make the approval process more democratic. In addition, the review has emerged as a major bone of contention in the on-going EU-US free trade talks, with key negotiators in Washington slamming the “nonsensical plans”.
While GM cultivation approvals have always been a highly controversial issue for the EU – the cultivation file seeking to allow Member States to prohibit or ban growing GM crops on their territory was finalised in January – GM import approvals were in the past fairly routine. They are now highly politicised with not one GMO import file signed off for the whole of 2014. But just two days after the review was published (April 24), the EU’s executive signed off on 10 applications for new imports of GM animal feed & 7 renewals – in the first approvals in over eighteen months.
Political & economic stakes are high with this dossier which has caused a number of headaches for the Commission over the years. Will the new approach work in practice, will Member States sign up to this so-called “opt-out” clause, what will be the implications for farmers on the ground or will it just open a ‘Pandora’s Box’?
Ladislav Miko is acting Director-General of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission (DG SANTE) since November 2014, and Deputy Director General for the Food Chain at DG SANTE, since January 2011. In this capacity, he held responsibility for the Directorate-General’s work on the nature and biodiversity, agriculture, soils and forests. He initiated, among others, the policies related to economic valuation of ecosystem assets (TEEB), green infrastructure, and special program to support biodiversity conservation and solve climate change impacts (BEST) in European Overseas Territories. He holds a doctorate in zoology and ecology and is Associate Professor of Prague University of Life Sciences and Guest Professor at the University of Antwerp, teaching environment and society relations and ecological restoration courses. Prior to join the European Commission, he was deputy Minister in the Czech Ministry for Environment and worked for 9 years as a professional soil biologist in the Slovak Academy of Sciences, specialized in soil zoology and ecology. He works for popularization of ecology and soil biology and published over 50 scientific papers.
Giovanni La Via MEP – EPP Group
Rapporteur on the regulation: “Possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified food and feed on their territory”
Giovanni La Via is the Chairman of the EP’s Environment Committee and was part of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee during the 2013 farm policy reform. During his previous mandate (2009-2013), La Via was rapporteur on the file dealing with the funding & management of the Common Agricultural Policy. Prior to entering the European Parliament, he was a member of the Sicilian regional executive with responsibility for agriculture & forestry (2006-2009) and he occupied several academic positions in the University of Catania (1989-2003). He was also head of the department of agricultural economics at the University of Catania from 2002 to 2003. La Via holds a Doctorate (PhD) in economics & agricultural policy.
Director Corporate Affairs, Strategic R&D and CSR at Agrifirm Group
Since 2010, Mr. Tijssens is working at Agrifirm as director R&D and CSR. From January 2012, his main task was Director Corporate Affairs. In 2011 he became Chairman of the Taskforce Sustainability of FEFAC, project leader on the transition of sustainable soy in the Netherlands and chairman of a large research consortium (Feed4Foodure) comprising the Dutch Feed Industry, Wageningen University and Research and the Dutch Government (so-called Top sector project).
As of June 2013 Mr. Tijssens is appointed to President of FEFAC.
Moderated by leading agriculture journalist Rose O’Donovan
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