Three years; that’s how long the European parliament has been waiting for the member states since its ambitious vote on future legislation regarding the restriction or banning of producing genetically modified organism (GMO) crops in their territories.
This wait is due to the extreme sensitivity of this file, with its mixture of considerations: scientific, ethical, commercial, agricultural, environmental and health-based, but also, and above all, with respect to the citizens themselves. Indeed, if there is one issue that has stirred up public opinion in the different member states during the last decade, it is surely GMOs. This has been accompanied by growing disapproval regarding risks from the presence of GMOs in human food. We should perhaps recall that in the Eurobarometer report on food technology from December 2010, “only 21 per cent of Europeans agree with the statement that ‘GMO food is safe for future generations’ (against 58 per cent who disagree).”
Presently there is only MON810 maize – resistant to two types of destructive insects – which has been permitted for cultivation in Europe since 1998. In addition to this, there are seven requests for GMOs awaiting authorisation.
It is in this particular context that parliament’s environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) committee is due to give its opinion on my draft report on 5 November.
In future, the EU would be well advised to launch public debates on sensitive issues in advance, in order to avoid any head-on collision between public opinion and genetic innovations.
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