The EU decision to allow Member States to decide whether to cultivate GM crops will have to be agreed by the European Parliament. If it is adopted, most countries in the EU, including Scotland and Wales, will remain GM free. There are currently no GM crops authorised for use in the EU that can be grown in England.
One safeguard/deterrent: the European Parliament has inserted a new clause on the liability for damage caused by GM crops into this proposal and improves existing EU law by making it compulsory for Member States to implement rules that prevent contamination of the GM free sector.
Earlier Wales had proposed a liability regime which made the GM companies responsible for any damage – and the GM industry promptly said they wouldn’t allow their crops to be grown under such a condition.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “In future a committed pro-GM Secretary of State like Owen Paterson could take the decision to make England a ‘GM country’, and once that decision is taken, and GM crops are established, it will be extremely difficult for any future Government to adopt a different position”.
He thinks that England would then risk getting a reputation as the GM centre of Europe; no doubt MP Paterson and pro-GM farming publications would celebrate this.
Farmers in both the US and Canada lost $100s of millions worth of exports when these two countries started growing GM crops and Peter Melchett points out that. in such a case, our farmers would lose export markets to the rest of Europe, and most of the rest of the world.
The EU’s Parliament magazine reports that Greens deputy Bart Staes was critical of the decision, saying that “It risks finally opening the door to genetically modified organisms across Europe, in spite of mass public opposition . . .The Greens will use all means at our disposal to prevent this wrongheaded proposal from entering into force . . . There are clear concerns that the opt-outs would not be legally sound and would be subject to legal challenges, leaving member states or regions isolated to defend their stance . . .
“There is also the clear and present danger of cross-contamination of crops, with the myriad of issues this poses.”