Consumers in Europe have been vocal in rejecting genetically modified foods. This opposition has led to member states adopting similar positions, in defiance of the EU Commission, which sees genetic modification as a triumph of industry and a potential way of increasing crop yields and agricultural profits.
The situation has now become so serious that the EU Commission is looking for ways to change the laws that govern the acceptance of such technologies, recognizing that a common EU stance on genetic modification is becoming an ever more distant dream. It proposed to let countries decide for themselves whether to accept genetic modification on their territory, but there is a hidden intent behind the proposed changes. No longer should, according to the EU bureaucrats, the member states have the possibility to challenge a decision regarding GMOs on scientific grounds. The reason: The European Food Safety Authority is the highest and indeed the unchallengeable authority on such scientific matters.
That is of course the same EU scientific body that treats vital nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as if they were a threat to human health, in need of "toxicological" assessment, while considering toxic fluoride to be a nutrient to be sold alongside vitamins and minerals in food supplements.
Fern Wickson of the GenØk Centre for Biosafety in Norway and Brian Wynne of the Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics in the Uk say the EU efforts at GMO policy reform are deceptive and have coined an apt term - the anglerfish deception - for them.
Anglerfish are predators that live in the eternal darkness of the deep oceans and have a distinctive way of catching their prey. They use a long light-emitting filament that extends from their head to lure organisms in the darkness. Those attracted to the shimmering light and movement are then unwittingly caught in front of the anglerfish's wide-open jaws.
Such is the nature of the European Commission (EC)'s proposal for a new European Union (EU) policy on the regulation of genetically mod- ified organisms (GMOs)--it looks alluring at first glance, but there are hidden dangers lurking in the background.
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After years of protracted conflict between the EC and several EU member states over the import of GM food and the use of GM crops in agriculture, a new regulatory approach to the approval and cultivation of GMOs is currently moving through the legislative process. In July 2010, the EC proposed the inclusion of a new article (Article 26b) in Directive 2001/18/EC that regulates the deliberate environmental release of GMOs. It would give member states autonomy to make their own decisions about cultivating GM crops, independently of EC authorizations. However, member states would not be able to make such decisions on the grounds of scientific assessments of health and environmental risk because these are performed by the EU's scientific advisory body, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EC's rationale for this proposed policy change is to address the bitter resistance to GM crops in some member states and break the resulting long-standing regulatory and policy deadlock.
In July 2011, the European Parliament (EP) overwhelmingly voted to endorse the principle of member-state freedom, but rejected the EC's attempt to completely prevent member states from using scientific arguments to ban GMOs. Whereas the EC wished to protect a centralized and singular voice of science for EU policy (namely the EFSA), the EP asserted that the different conditions across the EU could allow a rational scientific approach to reach different conclusions, especially on matters of environmental risk. In its amendments, the EP also implicitly accepted other points of criticism of the EFSA and EC processes; for example, that there are normative choices being made in EU GM policy, but under the false name of science...