2014. február 13., csütörtök

The 11th hour?

As reported by AFP and EurActiv among others, on Wednesday, like-minded countries sent a letter to Commissioner Borg in an attempt to stop the authorisation of GM 1057 at the eleventh hour.

They make reference to the well-known legal, political and scientific concerns as well as to the Commission's 1999 commitment not to go against predominant majorities in such cases. 

Fingers crossed that we won't have to keep our fingers crossed for the safety of our food chain...


Brussels, 12th February 2014

Mr Tonio Borg
European Commission

Dear Commissioner,

Yesterday’s discussion at the General Affairs Council on GMOs made clear that in the particular problem at hand, the extremely sensitive question of whether to authorise the genetically modified maize GM 1507, the solution is in the hands of the Commission. The Commission is still in position to withdraw its proposal.

An overwhelming majority of stakeholders, the European Parliament and Member States have repeatedly opposed the proposal. Yesterday, in particular, only 5 Member States supported it and 19 were against. That kind of an outcome would not yield approval under any other decision making procedure, amply underlining the validity and usefulness of the Commission’s 1999 pledge not to go against predominant majorities in such cases.

We are convinced that the Commission cannot ignore the legal, political and scientific concerns voiced by so many Member States and the general political landscape.

We are therefore confident that, by considering the horizontal impact of the issue, the Commission will withdraw the proposal.


Sebastian Kurz
Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Austria

Kristian VIGENIN
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus

Minister for European Affairs, France

Minister of State for European Affairs, Hungary

Enzo Moavero MILANESI
Minister for European Affairs, Italy

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Latvia

Vytautas Leškevičius,
Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Lithuania

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Luxembourg

Minister for European Affairs, Poland

State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Slovenia

Louis GRECH,
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for European Affairs, Malta

2014. február 11., kedd

A risk to fields and democracy

This is the text of an op-ed originally published by European Voice under http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2014/february/a-risk-to-fields-and-democracy/79620.aspx until it was pulled down within an hour for editorial reasons.

In order to get its message accross, I set up this blog to publish it anyway.

(I am the spokesperson of the Hungarian Permanent Representation to the EU, based in Brussels.)

A risk to fields and democracy

By Enikő Győri  -  Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Procedural quirks and wider, systemic failures have pushed Europe dangerously close to authorising a genetically modified seed through the backdoor. Member states must restore proper democratic control of the authorisation procedure, or risk contributing to a bumper harvest for Eurosceptic parties in the European elections.

The European Union's Council of Ministers – the body that brings together the 28 member states of the EU – is set to vote on Tuesday (11 February) on a European Commission proposal to authorise a genetically modified maize crop, Pioneer 1507, on the EU market.

As it has been the case before with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), member states are divided, but a clear majority believe that its environmental and health implications have not been properly investigated and that the Commission should not have extended the scope of the original authorisation to new types of uses. Member states are further alarmed by the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) assessment that Pioneer 1507 may harm butterflies and other “non-target” insects, aggravated by the company's refusal to co-operate in mitigating the risks for these innocent bystanders.

Alas, under the arcane rules of the EU's committee system, originally devised to provide greater efficiency in decision-making on technical matters, the Commission can easily sidestep the concerns of member states – even in an issue as politically sensitive as this. For, unless a super-majority rallies against the proposal, the Council will be deemed to have had “no opinion” and the Commission will go ahead with the authorisation, reneging on its 1999 pledge never to go against the predominant majority in sensitive issues.

This procedure is wrong in itself and should be checked; on occasion, its execution has also been legally flawed. Only two months ago, the EU's General Court annulled another GMO authorisation because the Commission had “significantly failed to fulfil its procedural obligations”.

This time, Council should rise to the challenge. Given that the Commission made light of the precautionary principle enshrined in the EU Treaty, member states should reject the request for authorisation, rather than just keeping fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong in the food chain. Rejection is the right thing to do not only legally and morally but also politically: the European Parliament recently voted 385 to 201 against authorization, reflecting the views of 61% of Europeans who do not support GMO foods. The logic of subsidiarity and democratic control dictates that member states follow suit.

Furthermore, to avoid similar conundrums in the future, we must fix our authorisation procedure which is broken: EFSA routinely finds each and every notification scientifically sound even when studies point to significant risks; the Commission goes ahead with the authorisation proposals instead of stopping them and investigating those risks; and member states are deprived of their right to decide which environmental and health risks are acceptable to them and which aren't. With member states calling for restoring subsidiarity to its rightful place, it is high time to restart negotiations on modifying the authorisation directive in a way that provides the necessary flexibility to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territories.

If we don't act now, it will be too late. Once the floodgates are opened, it is impossible to put the GMO genie back in the bottle. And if we allow a genetically modified seed to be authorised through the backdoor, it will damage the credibility and legitimacy of the entire European Union and risk contributing to a bumper harvest for EU sceptic parties at the May European elections.

Enikő Győri is Hungary's minister of state for European Union affairs.
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