Europe faces new challenge from one-million petition on GM crops

The battle between members states and Brussels has entered a new phase since the summer. Here’s a brief update:

July 2010: The European Commission moots a proposal which, if approved, will give the 27 member states freedom to decide for themselves whether to allow cultivation of GM crops.

September 2010 – Agriculture Ministers of the 27 debate the proposal. Big agricultural nations – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – are opposed, arguing that this opens the way to undermining the Common Agricultural Policy. Smaller countries such as the Netherlands are in favour. Commission fails to achieve a majority. Debate scheduled to resume Oct 14.

September 2010 – French Eurodeputy José Bové calls press conference to accuse Hungarian scientist Diana Banati – who chairs the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – of a conflict of interest. EFSA is tasked with providing the European Commission with scientific advice on genetically modified foods. Banati failed to disclose that she had previously sat on the board of directors of the International Life Science Institute, a pro GM lobby which includes among its members Monsanto and Bayer.

October 2010 – Greenpeace announces that it has collected over one million signatures from across Europe urging the European Commission to freeze the introduction of GM crops. This initiative – the first of its kind – seeks to benefit from a new clause in the Lisbon Treaty which states that if at least one million Europeans resident in a significant number of member states invite the Commission to make a legislative proposal in a domain of its competence, it should honour the citizen’s intiative. The Commission now has 4 months to respond, but its president can say the ruling which concerns the initiative is still being negotiated between the European Parliament and its member states.

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