300+ organizations unite to send strong signal to Frans Timmermans, demanding a shift to evidence-based sustainability food systems rather than unfounded hope on new GMOs

More than 300 organizations signed a letter sent to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal in the EU Commission, to call on him to uphold the precautionary principle, and consumers and farmers’ right to information and maintain the provisions in the current regulatory framework on Genetically Modified Organisms. This is an important step to safeguard the integrity of the environmental ambitions of the EU Green Deal.

The letter was sent ahead of Timmermans’ visit to the agricultural and environmental committees of the European Parliament on May 22. Among other topics, Timmermans addressed the revision of the seed legislation, the Nature Restoration Law, the Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR) for pesticide reduction, and New Genomic Techniques (NGT). The NGT proposal is slightly delayed but is now set to be published on July 5 2023.

In the agricultural committee, Timmermans suggested that the use of NGT crops might help with pesticide reduction, linking the SUR and NGT legislative files. This myth has been rebuked several times. Firstly, a 2021 study by the European Commission showed that most NGT crops that are close to commercialization relate the herbicide tolerance, which would clearly lead to more pesticide use in the future. Secondly, “pest resistant” NGT crops are an oversimplified solution which does not last: Pests and pathogens evolve rapidly to escape narrowly targeted methods, which is why attempts to genetically engineer pest and disease resistance into plants have failed or proven short-lived.  Member of the EU Parliament Sarah Wiener from the Greens/EFA Group, the rapporteur on the SUR file, also rebutted this argument and stresses that NGT cultivation would increase pesticide use.

However, Timmermans also acknowledged the severe shortcomings of NGTs, including these caveats on their possible contribution to pesticide reduction. Among other things, he also mentioned that NGTs are founded on many empty promises still. Importantly, he elaborated on the importance of achieving the goals of the Farm to Fork Strategy, which also includes the 25% target of expanding agricultural land under organic farming.

So, it seems that a few points, which were highlighted by the letter sent ahead of the Parliament hearing were taken up by Timmermans. The letter was signed by 340 European and national organizations, ranging from consumer right, environmental, and organic organizations. Among them are IFOAM Organics Europe, BeeLife, European Coordination Via Campesina, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, Friends of the Earth Europe, and Greenpeace. The letter called on Timmermans “to intervene and prevent the far-reaching deregulation of new genomic techniques at the expense of nature and the climate, and of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. The text further makes it clear that NGTs do not deliver on their sustainability promises and thus do not contribute to the Green Deal goals by 2030, neither for pesticide reduction nor for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding organic farming, the letter elaborates that “Full GMO transparency along the whole value chain is a necessary condition for the EU to achieve the Green Deal goal to expand organic farming to 25% of all EU arable land by 2030. Exempting new GMOs from safety testing, traceability and labelling requirements on one hand, and seeking to expand organic agriculture on the other hand, are mutually exclusive policy objectives.”

Find here the full letter.

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