Biotech lobbyists are
staging a "below-the-radar attack" on European
regulations, attempting to have new
modification (GM) techniques excluded from rules
that impact the environment, food safety, and consumer
according to a new report from the Brussels-based
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).
In doing so, big
agrichemical corporations like,
...are essentially trying to
circumvent Europe's relatively strict regulation of GM
organisms, which includes a mandated assessment of
health and environmental risks, as well as labeling.
Since 2015, EU national governments can also ban GM
crops from being grown in their countries. Nineteen
banned GM crop
farming on all or part of their territory.
However, since Europe's GM
law was introduced in 2001, new genetic engineering
techniques have emerged.
And now, the industry has
set up a dedicated, EU-level lobbying vehicle - the 'New
Breeding Techniques (NBT) Platform' - with the mission
of influencing a pending European Commission decision on
these "GM 2.0" techniques.
The decision is expected to
be issued next month.
"The NBT Platform, with
its very name, has rebranded the new GM techniques
as 'new breeding techniques' to make them sound
different from 'genetic engineering'," Corporate
Europe Observatory explains in its analysis.
"Not without success:
the European Commission and other regulatory bodies
have fully adopted this term in their communication
on the topic."
But this effort is nothing
more than an attempt to get GM in "through the back
door," Greenpeace warned in a policy briefing at the end of 2015.
Indeed, as Greenpeace and
seven other groups wrote in an
open letter to the EU Commissioner for Health
and Food Safety last month:
Any attempt to engineer
genomes by invasive methods can cause unexpected and
For example, "cisgenesis"
- a genetic engineering technique that uses genes
from the same species - is still genetic engineering
and is therefore subject to unexpected and
unpredictable effects caused by the genetic
engineering process itself, and not by the trait or
New techniques to
genetically engineer plants and animals, such as
so-called DNA scissors (nucleases) and interventions
in gene regulation, raise additional concerns.
What's more, the techniques
being considered by the Commission, such as,
...appear to be deliberately,
"designed to circumvent
the EU's GMO regulations," CEO points out.
The group cites an industry
lobby document sent to EU decision makers in 2013 that,
"could not be clearer
about the industry's motivation to develop new GM
techniques: they were developed 'as a response to
the de facto moratorium on GMOs that
currently exists in Europe'."
If biotech corporations gets
their way, and "GM 2.0" processes remain exempt from
existing GM laws,
"an increasing number of
GM products would never be assessed for their
potential effects on our food, health or the
environment," Greenpeace EU food policy director
wrote last week.
"They would not be
labeled either, so European consumers, farmers and
breeders would have no way of avoiding them."
But as CEO argues,
"The legal case that new
GM techniques should be covered by the current
regulations is, in fact, crystal clear."
Indeed, Greenpeace echoes:
"The GMO regulations in
the EU should be interpreted in their intended
sense, to encompass all modern biotechnological
processes that directly modify genomes.
the EU would be failing its citizens."