Political Hotspot September newsletter 2018

On 25 July 2018 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its final ruling on the legal status of new genetic engineering techniques and concluded that “techniques/methods of directed mutagenesis involving the use of genetic engineering which have appeared or have been mostly developed since Directive 2001/18 was adopted and in respect of which the risks for the environment or for human health have not thus far been established with certainty” are indeed techniques of genetic modification that lead to the production of GMOs. Genetic engineering techniques developed after the adoption of the GMO legislation and with no long record of safety must therefore be regulated as GMOs. IFOAM EU welcomes this important decision, as well as the main organisations of the European civil society (Friend of the Earth Europe, European Coordination Via Campesina, Greenpeace Europe, and many more). After the European Commission repeatedly delayed the clarification of the legal status of new GMOs, the court case initiated by eight French NGOs and one farmers union brings legal full clarity. This decision is fully in line with the position of the organic sector (read the positions of IFOAM EU and IFOAM – Organics International) as it will ensure transparency for breeders, farmers, processors and consumers and will allow organic and non-GM conventional operators to continue to exclude GMOs from their production processes.

This decision is an important victory, but it also means that there will be unprecedented pressure from the biotech industry and some foreign governments to review the EU legislative framework on GMOs to exclude the new techniques from its scope. Some EU Member States are already calling for such a modification in order not to hinder “innovation”.

It is crucial that the organic movement and civil society remain mobilised to ensure that the ECJ’s decision will be enforced by the European Commission, and that Directive 2001/18 on the release of GMOs into the environment will not be modified to exclude new GM techniques.

In August, IFOAM EU co-signed a letter to Commissioner Juncker to highlight the required steps following the ECJ’s ruling. The European Commission should remind Member States that they have to stop illegal releases of GMOs in the environment and ensure that GMOs derived from new genetic engineering techniques do not enter the EU without market authorisation. In that regard, it is crucial to develop methods for the detection of authorised and unauthorised GMOs. Finally, breeders and seed companies must exercise full transparency on techniques used to breed, select and multiply varieties marketed in the EU and developed since the adoption of Directive 2001/18.

IFOAM EU’s new project, ‘Keeping GMOs out of organic’, that runs from August 2018 until the end of 2020, has a clear focus on new genetic engineering techniques and will allow IFOAM EU to continue its advocacy work to ensure that all new techniques will be regulated.

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