New setback for biotech crops in Europe (13/3/2007)

1.New setback for biotech crops in Europe - Financial Times
2.Virrankoski paper: EU parliament serving GMO lobby? - Klaus Faissner

1.New setback for biotech crops in Europe
By Andrew Bounds in Bonn
Financial Times, March 13 2007

The battle over biotech crops erupted again yesterday after members of the European parliament blocked a resolution calling for greater use of the technology.

MEPs voted to delay the draft motion to allow more time for the agriculture committee to scrutinise it.

The Socialist group, the second-biggest in parliament, said: "It needs more debate to be better balanced and flexible." The cross-party vote deals a blow to efforts by the European Commission to boost biotechnology at a ministerial meeting in June that will set new targets for its use.

The resolution by Kyosti Virrankovski, a Finnish MEP, called for the benefits of genetic modification to be recognised and for an end to discrimination between GM and conventional crops. Of 90m hectares planted worldwide in 2005, 65,000ha were in the EU.

Industry advocates say the delay in Europe is costing jobs and investment as the US and Asia plant crops. CBAG, an advisory group to the Commission of scientists and industry figures, said the Commission "should calculate the negative effect on employment and competitiveness of delay". It also called for compensation for patent holders who could not get national governments to allow planting.

A recent report by an outside consultant for the US Grains Council [this is the Barfoot/Brookes greenwashing report commissioned by Monsanto] showed that farmers gained $5bn extra in 2005 by cutting down on pesticides and ploughing. The crops are resistant to weeds so ploughing is reduced, saving on fuel and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. [USDSA has admitted GM crops are not responsible for the growth in no-till, low till ag]

Simon Barber of EuropaBio, the industry lobby group, said: "If they didn't work, why would 10m farmers plant them?"

However, Friends of the Earth said early benefits of new crops often evaporated within a few years as new diseases or pests adapted. The pressure group issued a report questioning the benefits of GM crops. Hundreds had been approved in the US but only 70 different ones had been planted.

"If we want to develop a competitive and dynamic economy in Europe, then it would be wise to quietly shelve the idea of genetically modified foods and put our political support and tax-payers' money behind green farming methods," said FoE.

All eyes are on the European Commission's joint research council of scientists' study, due next month. Early drafts say there is not enough data to assess but that GM crops accounted for just 0.08 per cent of gross valued added in the agricultural food industry and 0.02 per cent of jobs in the EU.

However, that is because few have been planted amid consumer resistance. Polls show seven in 10 Europeans oppose GM crops, causing governments to withhold approval and retailers to avoid stocking them.


2.Virrankoski paper: EU parliament serving GMO lobby?
Analysis by Klaus Faissner, journalist, Vienna
German original available at
http://de.indymedia.org/2007/03/170538.shtml and http://www.trueten.de/archives/1557-Virrankoski-Papier-EU-Parlament-im-Dienste-der-Gentechnik-Lobby.html

One of the most disputed papers of the past years is going to be voted at Strasbourg on Wednesday, march 14th 2007. Although it has been slightly mitigated, the pro-GMO course remains dominant in some points it has even been accentuated. MEPs are not only going to vote about the future of agriculture, but also about their own credibility.

The initiative report, which has been introduced by the liberal Finish MEP Kyosti Virrankoski is nothing else than a paper procuced by GMO lobby, and now will be voted on by the EU parliament. The whole project is perfectly timed: In a few weeks the EU commission is going to publish its strategy on biotechnology and therefore a pro-GM manifestation of EU parliament would just come in handy.

The original document spoke a clear language: "Modern biotechnology" – very often embellishingly and therefore intransparently used instead of genetic engineering – could serve as a motor for employment and to meet poverty; "the present authorisation process" would be "slow and bureaucratic" and the "precautionary principle" could not "be used as an excuse to delay the process". Not least civil protests had resulted in 190 amendements having been proposed by members of agrarian committee. Several amendements were adopted and the report has finally been accepted on January 24th by a rather bare majority.


The result is to be read at several points like the product of a schizophrenic person. On the one hand, genetic engeneering could solve poverty, create an "economically and environmentally sustainable farming and food", and the "precautionary principle cannot be used as an excuse to delay the process". On the other hand, e. g. the "current precautionary approach to the approval of new biotechnology products" is supported and all "holdings whose 'GM free' quality label has given them a higher-priced market" should "not to be jeopardised" in "their economic stability ". But no word, that coexistance is impossible or that the GMO approval by the European food Authority EFSA is inacceptable and that pharmacrops, once put onto open fields, have incalculable risks. Similar is to be stated for GMO plants planted for purposes of alternative energy and their risks of contamination. Further, agrarian genetic engineering is presented as salvation means for poor countries and for environmental, energetic and medical problems as written above, often skillfully hidden under the veil of "modern biotechnology".


But those are making a mistake who think that only amendements of mitigation would have been inserted into the document: MEP Renate Sommer from CDU (Christian Democrates) passed through e. g. the following wordings,

* that "there must be no discrimination against genetically modified organisms by comparison with conventional crops",

* "farmers in the EU have a right to benefit from advances in modern biotechnlogy in exactly the same way as farmers in third states" and

* "in the case of GMOs too, liability rules based on the originator principle must be applied".

The latter would open a door to GMO planting, and thus a farmer wanting to work without GMO would never be able to prove from which of e. g. 10 fields of GM corn would be the origin of the contamination.

The entire pro-GMO orientation of the text has not been changed significantly. Either every statement would have to be changed to its opposite or the work would have to be rejected as a whole. Both has not happened. Just the opposite: By the mitigating corrections MEPs are enabled to consent to the report on March 14th with much more ease. They would not necessarely compromize themselves a priori as henchmen of the GM-industry. Also the appeasements that the report would be only an expression of the will of EU parliament without legislative effects are missing their purpose: MEPs are elected by the people and, in the case of their consent to this report, they would assist the EU Committee in its pro-GMO mind.


Numerous initiatives are fighting against the acceptance of the paper. Possibly the best help comes through the website of the Agrarian Group of Attac in Wuppertal at http://www.attac.de/wtal-agrar/aktionen.html. All postal, FAX and e-mail addresses of all German speaking MEPs are presented including very specific proposals for letters and postcards with references to actual quotation by every single MEP listed. MEPs should better not complain about the many e-mails and letters they arer receiving. It is their utmost duty to act in the interest of us citizens. Taking into considerration that the vast majority of all EU citizens do not accept experimental plants on their fields or plates, EU parliament must be warned not to welcome genetic engineering on Wednesday. This would not only fail the subject in substance, but it would also lead to a further loss of trust within the population.

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