Earlier this month, the European Parliament voted with a large majority to adopt objections on placing genetically modified soybeans on the market in Europe. Since the beginning of 2014, the Parliament has adopted 16 objections to GMO authorisations, of which 11 for food and feed imports. Unfortunately, despite the Parliament voting repeatedly against GMO authorisation, and despite many Member States opposing GMOs, the Commission continues to authorise them.
Almost ten years have passed since the discussion first started at the EU level concerning the new techniques of GMOs, the potential risks they pose and their legal status. The question of regulating GMOs has been in the spotlight again recently at the EU level with an event organised by the Commission on 28 September and a hearing at the EU Court of Justice on 3 October.
The past couple of weeks have shown an acceleration in the discussions, but it is worryingly one-sided. The Commission’s event discussed how to develop the technology of GMOs, rather than discussing the need to have new technology or the farming model.
In the future, our agricultural policy in Wales will not be decided at an EU level. Some may see that as an opportunity to chart a different future from that of the EU. But with the current UK Government desperately looking across the Atlantic for a future trade deal, we may need to worry much more about GMOs in the future.
Leaving the world’s biggest regulated single market and signing new trade deals could see a race to the bottom for the UK’s food quality, in the interests of completing free trade deals with countries like the United States. In the EU, foods made using GM ingredients must be clearly labelled as such, and most consumers have said repeatedly that they do not wish to buy them. A rushed trade deal with the US could see unlabelled genetically modified foods hitting our shelves after very soon, alongside chlorine-washed chicken and beef from cows injected with hormones.
For many decades, the food on our plates has been protected, perhaps not as adequately as it should, through our EU membership. While the debate in the EU on GMOs is frustrating, at least a democratic debate is taking place. Imposed GMOs after Brexit, with no consultation with citizens, would be unfair to consumers and unfair to farmers.