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Comments 14

TTIP – current EU GMO rules to be ‘disregarded’ as EU Commission caves in to US pressure


by Graham Vanbergen, via TruePublica

A joint report conducted by Greenpeace, Corporate Europe Observatory and Gene Watch UK issued a briefing paper last week entitled “Commission fails to regulate new GMOs after intense US lobbying.”

In essence, the European Commission has effectively deserted its principles when it comes to GMO’s entering the food chain within the 28 nation bloc. Intense lobbying by United States representatives for the EU Commission to disregard current GMO rules which require stringent safety tests and labelling has proved successful. The result is that genetically modified organisms produced through a modified technique called ‘gene editing’ will be allowed. Gene editing is all but the same as anything we understand about GMO’s generally.

Freedom of Information documents show the scale of US lobbying has overwhelmed the EU Commission who now stand accused of bowing to US pressure and abdicating to the corporations and rejecting citizen concerns. The documents reveal that US representatives pushed for the EU to disregard its own GMO rules on the basis that the EU were simply putting up barriers and stifling trade under the proposed TTIP negotiations. The papers state that the EU should completely ignore health and environmental safeguards to pave the way for successful negotiations.

On the EC website the very first paragraph reads: “The European Union has established a legal framework to ensure that the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, takes place in safe conditions.”

In the EU’s GMO directive/2001/18 the Directive clearly states: (clause 10)”For a comprehensive and transparent legislative framework, it is necessary to ensure that the public is consulted by either the Commission or the Member States during the preparation of measures and that they are informed of the measures taken during the implementation of this Directive” and (clause 19) “A case-by-case environmental risk assessment should always be carried out prior to a release. It should also take due account of potential cumulative long-term effects associated with the interaction with other GMOs and the environment.”

In addition, the GMO Directive is quite clear on one thing (clause 23):  “No GMOs, as or in products, intended for deliberate release are to be considered for placing on the market without first having been subjected to satisfactory field testing at the research and development stage in ecosystems which could be affected by their use.”

Clearly none of these clauses within the directive are going to be adhered to under the new TTIP regime. The EU Commission requested a ‘legal opinion‘ to be carried out, not an environmental impact report. There’s a difference. Here, the EU Commission has been able to establish legally that GMO’s created through certain new techniques such as gene editing somehow makes them safe and therefore not subject to a high bar of scrutiny that previously existed. The ‘opinion’ request was announced last year by the commission and that triggered an intense round of lobbying by the US.

Originally the EU Commission had stated that this technique would be classified the same way as other GMO’s which the US representatives stated would be “another blow to agriculture and technology”. In its response, it is not overly surprising given the secretive nature of TTIP negotiations that the full text of the legal opinion has not been published and other than a leak, the public will not be given sight of it. Corporate Europe Observatory sent six freedom of Information requests, none have revealed the information required.

These new gene editing techniques are simply a way round current rules and as the documents show, the US was clearly unhappy with new breeding techniques requiring new rules and ominously stated that “regulatory hurdles between governments would lead to potentially significant trade disruption” – in other words, they issued a threat.

US companies are heavily involved in gene editing techniques including the use of ODM (oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis). For example, this includes a company called Cibus which acquired a herbicide resistant oilseed rape engineered through this technique to the US market. Cibus then tried to bypass EU rules by lobbying the Commission to classify ODM as a non GMO.

Dow Chemicals and DuPont, now merged to form DowDuPont have a big interest in the same techniques as revealed by recent patent applications.

US corporations are very used to having strong trade support from the US government who heavily pressure external entities such as sovereign states with companies such as Monsanto having GM soybeans pushed by the US trade department within the TTIP negotiations.

In the US genetically modified organisms are not routinely tested by a regulatory system and can even be produced and placed on the market for human or animal consumption without any form of testing whatsoever. In addition, there are no labelling laws that require these products to be identified in the US food chain. The US Food and Drug Administration, obviously acting on behalf of corporations even rejected large scale citizen protest petitions for food labelling of GMO’s.

The aim of the corporations involved, supported by the US trade department, is to get to a position where no real testing regulations or food labelling systems or laws are present to protect or at least inform European citizens of what they are consuming.

Officially there are now 38 countries that have fully banned the use of GMO foods. Twenty-eight of those nations are in the European Union. Nations with strong anti-GMO laws are Belize, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela in the Americas, Turkey, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan in Asia, Algeria and Madagascar in Africa. The picture on GM cultivation bans across Africa is not clear due to the current pressure being put on many African governments by the Biotech industry and the Gates Foundation to lift long-standing bans on the import of unmilled GMO seeds or unmilled GMO food aid.

In addition, Russia has not only banned the use of GMO foods but also banned any imports. Last year, China started allowing the use of GMO seeds and may well end up being a world leader in the field within a few years.

 

 

 

14 Comments

  1. chico says

    Seamus…. thanks to our diverse pool of nature made genes we have an intelligent and aware brain like you here debating with substance and knowledge a matter which shouldn’t even be in humans menu. Not even the most modern computer can project the outcome of genetic interactions could happen outhere. Like u said: its pure money, the $cience$ behind modifying OUR food is useless at least in our present days where greedy humans didn’t yet destroyed the whole ecosystem. There is luckly plenty of food for the whole world. The distribution and capital driven market makes people hungry not the lack of soil (or the remain of it flooded with poison agrotoxics) or available crops. GMO’s should be completely banned from earth as it has potential to harm what Nature took billions of years making everything perfect and interactive. Yet a bunch of greedy imbeciles lab nerds with not even a century or so of ‘re$earch’ and consequences studies and their stock exchange masters think they can be better or make better than Nature. Not even out there in distant galaxies I bet human-like advanced creatures grow their food and for their co-habitant fauna & flora in labs and if they do that explains why they are pale, bland and grey 😀 … joke apart but if we keep playing around Nature and eating more of this f… garbage surely our bodies and other beings will be in time modified too and it won’t be an advanced biotechnology to reverse the damage. Its gonna b too late. Idiocy, power and greed are a threat to humanity, enough the huge list of earth problems to solve and money being invested in kill the neighbour, going to mars, makin’ crap dangerous food, and so on. The question of all science (the one with a real interest to help the majority of people with open free sources and no profit for corporations) could NOT be “can we make thi$ work?” but “SHOULD we make this” (action/reaction). Sad state of corporatocracy engulfing and destroying every bit of beauty Nature did before us. In the end everything will be tainted and real Scientists in the future will look back and bow their heads quietly asking “Why…?”

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  2. passerby says

    GMO is to agriculture what copyright is to books: a way to extract money from what should be free. Patent a GMO and you can sue people and force them to pay you, even if they never bought seeds from you. It’s sufficient that their crops infringe a patent of yours.

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  3. It’s too bad that a purely scientific issue is once again getting entangled in political and economic interests, and as a result the public understanding of it is damaged beyond repair.

    There is nothing unsafe about GMO organisms in principle (certain GMO schemes may pose danger to the environment or human health, but this is why, first, we think before we design these things, and second, we do extensive tests before we release them into the the wild). As any competent biologists will tell you. In fact, you don’t even need to be a working biologist, you just need to have paid attention in your biology classes in high school and, if you were fortunate enough to pass through one, an introductory college-level biology class.

    However, because there are patents and economic power involved, fuel is constantly poured into the fire of the public hysteria on the issue.

    In the process, the most important victim is the public’s trust in science. It’s all very sad to watch.

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    • Seamus Padraig says

      Science is not something that happens in a vacuum. Pricey research is funded by governments and corporations, which may be motivated by little more than the desire for more power or money–not the public good.

      If you knew more, for example, about the FDA’s shoddy history of approving pharmaceuticals, you too would definitely hesitate to hand them a lot of discretionary power in approving GMO foods. The FDA allows companies to conduct their own in-house tests and report their own data to the agency–independent testing is not necessary for FDA approval. Thalidomide and Vioxx are two well-known examples of epic FDA fails. The only reason there haven’t been more disasters like these is that such companies leave themselves open to class-action lawsuits. But TPP/TTIP would effectively gut our right to sue these companies in real courts; instead, we would could only go through corporate-controlled international kangaroo ‘courts’. Really scary!

      Besides, homo sapiens has survived quite fine for hundreds of thousands of years w/o GMO foods. These foods are not being marketed for our benefit, but merely to boost the profitability of companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland and Monsanto. You can ship more square tomatoes in a box than round ones, etc. At best, those new square tomatoes are as a harmless as the old ones. But what if something goes wrong?

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    • O Lucky Man! says

      Interestingly / disturbingly / unsurprisingly (take your pick) the FDA does absolutely no testing of GMO products. It presumes them all to be safe.

      Thus is science kneecapped.

      GMO production is business. It is run for profit, not for some naive high-school principle of the purity of science. Any evidence of adverse effects is quietly shuffled away, obscured, overlooked, statistically annulled. There is no objectivity here, just maximising of shareholder value as legally required.

      Where the objective principles of science could be upheld there is just a void, rapidly being filled with superbugs, superweeds and the corpses of bankrupted third world farmers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, but why do you think the people creating the GMO plants are idiots or some sort of evil scientists planning on destroying the world’s health?

        The great majority of modifications are totally harmless or no more dangerous than the toxins the all plants produce to persuade herbivores not to eat them. We’re not talking about plants engineered to produce neurotoxins here.

        While in the same time the great majority of people who freak out about GMO do so entirely because of the first two letters in the abbreviations, which in turns is entirely because they are utterly ignorant about basic biology (and accordingly, should never have been allowed to graduate high school, but were given a pass because the educational system is so dysfunctional).

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        • Seamus Padraig says

          “Yes, but why do you think the people creating the GMO plants are idiots or some sort of evil scientists planning on destroying the world’s health?”

          Idiots? No. Evil? No. Human? Yes. Science itself may in some way be godlike; but that does not make scientists infallible gods. They are human, and can be forced to respond to pressures from above just like the rest of us. One thinks of all those smart, well-educated scientists in the Third Reich, who cranked out white papers purporting to show that Aryan crania were different from Semitic crania. Were they evil? Probably no more evil than you or me. Just ordinary people who found themselves in an unfortunate situation, and had to do this to keep their jobs.

          “The great majority of modifications are totally harmless or no more dangerous than the toxins the all plants produce to persuade herbivores not to eat them. We’re not talking about plants engineered to produce neurotoxins here.”

          The first point here is that, while the harmlessness of GMOs may be a natural and intuitive assumption, the fact remains that we don’t know for sure what will happen until their use becomes more widespread. Personally, I vote that we let some other country out there somewhere go first, then wait a generation or so to see what happens to them as a consequence. That, too, would be fully in keeping with the empirical method of learning from experience!

          The second point (which I made above already in some sense) is that, even if these mods prove completely harmless, that still doesn’t make them beneficial or necessary–at least not for us, the consumers. In other words, even if that cool gene-splice that produces a square tomato doesn’t unintentionally influence another trait in a way that might be harmful to humans long term, yet somehow manages to escape the short-term notice of Monsanto researchers or the FDA, the question remains: How does eating square tomatoes rather than round tomatoes benefit me ? Does the world really need such a technology? Isn’t this just some ploy to make agribusiness more profitable? That’s what I think. So the bottom line is that our bias in this matter should be one of extreme skepticism and caution. There should be absolutely no hurry to rush this stuff to market. Even if it ends up being harmless, we still don’t benefit.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Seb says

    You may lead a (an?) horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Responsibility for what you eat , as with everything, is personal.

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  5. Coincidentally, or not, GMO’s partner in crime, the herbicide glyphosate, has just been given an extended licence to kill by the European commission, according to an article in the Guardian:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/22/european-commission-glyphosate-weedkiller-leaked-proposal

    The publication of this link just goes to show that Off-Guardian has not reacted out of spite against the Guardian in return for the media outlet’s banning links to Off-Guardian.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Eurasia News Online and commented:

    Officially there are now 38 countries that have fully banned the use of GMO foods. Twenty-eight of those nations are in the European Union. Nations with strong anti-GMO laws are Belize, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela in the Americas, Turkey, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan in Asia, Algeria and Madagascar in Africa. The picture on GM cultivation bans across Africa is not clear due to the current pressure being put on many African governments by the Biotech industry and the Gates Foundation to lift long-standing bans on the import of unmilled GMO seeds or unmilled GMO food aid.

    In addition, Russia has not only banned the use of GMO foods but also banned any imports. Last year, China started allowing the use of GMO seeds and may well end up being a world leader in the field within a few years.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The BOOM in Bio sales will kill off the import of US Frankenstein foods along with the loss of votes for any EU politician that supports this tyranny.

    If Americans vote Trump then we have nothing to worry about as TTIP & TPP will be stillborn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johnny Hacket says

      There will be plenty to worry about with President Trump , plus gmo foods are exactly the same as bio foods except bio products have killed more people than gmos which have killed nobody.

      Like

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