New GMOs: What’s next for Europe & state-of-play legislative process

As covered in previous editions of our newsletter, the European Commission has been moving forward with plans to create a new and specific legal framework for “novel genomic techniques” (NGTs or new genetic engineering techniques/newGM).

Moments to have your say
In September and October, the Commission conducted a public consultation on the Inception Impact Assessment for “new genomic techniques’. This was open to all citizens and organisations and aimed at identifying crucial issues for the Commission to considered before preparing its actual Impact Assessment.

The Commission has not yet specified how it the input to this consultation will feed into its upcoming Impact Assessment – this includes comments of IFOAM Organics Europe, national organic organizations and organic producers.

What is clear, however, is that the Commission has announced the public consultation on the Impact Assessment for the 2nd quarter of 2022. It will be open for 3 months and launch on the ‘Have your say’ website.

As IFOAM Organics Europe, we will participate in this consultation, representing the European organic movement’s voice. We will communicate with and about this to our members ahead of time.

First discussions among EU Environment Ministers
Since our last update, the topic has been discussed at the Council of Environment Ministers on 20 December 2021. Austrian Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Leonore Gewessler, initiated this discussion, emphasising that newGM should be on the agenda of environmental ministers since a legal framework should include:

  • A comprehensive risk assessment that builds on transparent and science-based criteria; and
  • Freedom of choice, based on clear labelling for products of NGTs/newGM.

These points from the Austrian Minister received support from several Member States, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary and Luxembourg. Some environmental Ministries like France remained more ambiguous, and others demanded ‘lighter’ Regulation, like Estonia, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The meeting was the first instance that environmental Ministers spoke on the new Commission plans in an Environment Council meeting. Previously, the issue had been discussed among Agricultural Ministers.

Which Ministries are/should be responsible for (new) GMOs?
It is not new that Environmental Ministers are working on genetic engineering in food and agriculture. This was the case until 2009, when Commission President Barroso, who was in charge at the time, decided to transfer the responsibility of the GMO file from the Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENVI) to the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE).

Until then, Environment Ministers and the Environment Council had the lead in taking decisions on the GMO legal framework and GMO authorisations. And there were good reasons for it, as the release of GMOs into the environment is a biosafety issue, with potential environmental impacts – this is also the case of new Genetic Engineering techniques.

For more information on GMOs and new GMOs and IFOAM Organics Europe’s work on this issue, read our webpage on GMOs and new GMOs and contact [email protected]. IFOAM Organics Europe members can find more information on the member extranet and background materials in the arguments database on the member extranet (main messages, arguments/FAQs, visuals & videos).

For information about what you can gain from being a member, read our membership page and contact [email protected].

We thank the sponsors of our “Organic Movement Activities on Seed Diversity & GMO Regulation” project

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