Environmental groups opposing the genetically modified food industry will be following tomorrow's grilling session of commissioner designate Tonio Borg with interest, hoping he will take a tougher line than his predecessor.
The European Commission has frozen requests to authorise more than 20 genetically modified (GM) seeds for cultivation that were in the pipeline before the abrupt resignation of John Dalli on 16 October. Meanwhile, the biotech industry says such delays threaten Europe’s food supplies and economic competitiveness.
A story posted on EurActiv quoted Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe whose organisation clashed with Mr Dalli over GMOs. She accuses the former commissioner of having “a clear pro-GM agenda”. However she’s hopeful his replacement will be more responsive to what she called staunch public opposition to GM foods.
“I’m optimistic … I’m always optimistic,” she said. “For us it’s a responsibility and a task for a consumer commissioner to listen to the needs and the wishes of the consumers instead of following a handful of biotech companies’ interests.”
Benedikt Haerlin, who heads the Foundation on Future Farming in Berlin told EurActiv, that “at a minimum” there should be a moratorium on GMOs until disagreements over policies and safety can be sorted out.
The next commissioner, he said, should start out by convincing Germany or France to drop their national bans on GMOs and accept a common EU approach.
“Politically that’s the most important thing for a commissioner because only if that happens will the scientific assessment of GMOs becomes a little less politically loaded,” Haerlin said.
The incoming commissioner should move swiftly to reconsider make-up of the European Food Safety Authority’s GMO review panel, Haerlin added. EFSA recently announced reforms amid allegations of cosiness with industry trade groups and research, but Haerlin said it did not go far enough.
“I think there is an obvious lack of credibility which has not been overcome with the recent re-appointment of some of the members,” he said from Berlin.