Check against delivery.

 

President, Honourable Members,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to set out the aims and substance of the Commission's proposal to amend the Regulation on Genetically Modified food and feed, prior to the vote later today.

Let me recall that this proposal derives directly from the set of political guidelines on the basis of which this Commission was appointed, under the point "a Union of Democratic Change".

We were in a very paradoxical situation and our proposal aimed at solving it:

  • On the one hand, EU citizens seem to be sceptical about GMOs in many Member States. And yet, GMOs are authorised in the European Union only after a comprehensive risk assessment which confirms a high level of safety.

  • On the other hand, EU livestock producers are extremely dependent on imports of protein crops – which are mostly genetically modified soya. These GMOs are widely used to feed animals even in the Member States who vote against the GMO products.

Let me recall that before the Commission takes its decision on GMO authorisation it consults Member States: first in a committee, then, if there is no clear opinion of the committee, in the appeal committee. In this way, the Member States have twice the possibility to express their views.

Under the comitology rules, if Member States reach a qualified majority in favour of a draft commission authorisation, the Commission adopts it. If the member states reach a qualified majority against the draft, the Commission cannot adopt its draft authorisation.  In case of no opinion, GMO and comitology legislation requires the Commission to adopt a decision.  

In the specific case of GMOs, Member States have never reached a qualified majority either in favour or against the draft authorisation proposed by the Commission.  The result has been a "no opinion" for the 67 GM food and feed authorisations granted.

Most of the Member States who voted against or abstained did not challenge the risk assessment, but instead openly invoked “national political reasons”.

Therefore, by failing to draw the line between yes and no, Member States leave the final decision only to the Commission.

This situation is indeed unique because thousands of other decisions are adopted without difficulty under the comitology procedure in other sectors.

This situation creates tensions. It is highly unsatisfactory as it contributes to a climate of distrust against the European Union and its Institutions.

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President, Honourable Members,

The time has come for everyone to step up and take their full responsibilities.

The Commission's proposal sets out a pragmatic and legally sound way forward, consistent with the subsidiarity principle.

Member States are already using the Directive on GMO cultivation. And it shows that this model provides a workable framework to give the possibility to Member States to better take account of national circumstances.

The legislative proposal on GM food and feed would give clear roles to the Commission and Member States:

  • The Commission would retain responsibility for granting European marketing authorisations for safe GMOs; while

  • Member States would hold full responsibility for deciding whether or not to use them on their territory.

I am not aware of an alternative approach that could properly address the challenge at stake and respect at the same time the EU institutional framework.  For example:

  • Changing the Comitology Regulation just for GMOs would clearly pose a problem of equal treatment compared with other systems of pre-authorisation.

    This would also run the risk of not allowing the Commission to take a decision – be it an approval or a rejection – on an application.

  • Changing the voting rules would also be problematic.

    These rules are set out in the Treaty to ensure the democratic balance between the respective weights of the 28 Member States.

  • Some suggested that what is needed is not to change the system of authorisation, but to improve the risk assessment of GMOs.

Let me recall that continuous efforts are made by the Commission and EFSA to ensure that GMO risk assessments are based on the very highest standards of science and independence.

The most recent development was the adoption, two years ago, of a Regulation reinforcing and clarifying the requirements for GM food and feed applications. It was supported by a qualified majority of Member States.

But this adoption had no influence on the voting behaviour of the same Member States, which continue to invoke “political reasons”.  

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President, Honourable Members,

I am well aware of the questions this House has raised regarding this proposal and that you are considering the adoption of a resolution to reject it.

I would regret it very much. I believe an open and serious debate would be beneficial to our institutions and would bring the EU closer to its citizens.

Should you choose to reject the proposal:

  • The Commission will continue to apply the legislation which was adopted by the European Parliament and by the Council;

  • The Member States will still not take a clear position; they will remain led by national political considerations and, without challenging the EU risk assessment or demonstrating that the GMO is unsafe, they will not give a clear vote but leave full responsibility of the decision to the Commission

  • Farmers will continue using GMOs to feed their livestock, willingly or unwillingly.

  • And the EU citizens will remain sceptical towards GMOs.

This would be a lost opportunity to give a concrete answer to a genuine and legitimate concern of European citizens, which undermines not just the GMO authorisation system, but also confidence in the EU itself.

I therefore urge you to reflect again very carefully on the full consequences of your decision before proceeding to vote. We are proposing an additional democratic mechanism to reinforce the legitimacy of the EU decisions on GMOs. 

Thank you.

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