The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) of the European Parliament will vote on 12 and 13 October a proposal for a new decision-making process in the European Union (EU) for the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).


Photo: Divulgation

This is the revision of Regulation (EC) Nº1829/2003 which now entitles the Member States restrict or prohibit GMOs in their territory only if they can demonstrate that the product in question poses risks to health and to the environment. In late October, the consolidated proposal will be put to the vote in plenary session in Strasbourg.

This decision may have an impact on exports of soybeans from Brazil to the EU. The soy complex tops Brazilian sales to Europe, which has accumulated sales of 9 million tons in the first half of this year – 9.02% higher than the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply – MAPA.

Currently, what happens is that countries are based on several reasons and not only in the risks to health and to the environment and have returned to the European Commission (EC) the final decision. In other words, what was to be an exception in the procedure has become a standard for decision making. The European Parliament (EP) then made a request to the EC to the review of the decision process, which took place in April this year. The EC proposes that each European country can decide on the use of fruits and vegetables with GMOs, even if the food is released at EU level. Based on that draft law of the EC, still in progress, the Scottish Government has already banned in early August the cultivation of GMOs in their territory, to preserve it “green and clean”.

However, the EC’s draft law is still in the EP for evaluation and was strongly opposed by MEPs from all political groups in a debate that took place on July 17. Parliamentarians consider that is lacking to the project an impact assessment and decision making that will be allocated to Member States may not be compatible with the internal market rules or the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The EU has a comprehensive regulatory framework for the authorization, traceability and labeling of GMOs and GM food and feed. Currently, has adopted a precautionary approach to GMOs, which requires prior authorization for placing any product on the market and environmental monitoring after the placing on the market an authorized GMO. The GMO legislation establishes specific procedures for evaluation and authorization for a limited time (10 years). The risk assessment is carried out on the basis of harmonized criteria which are recognized among the strictest in the world.

Worldwide, 28 countries produce GMOs, and Brazil is at the top. The country is the second largest producer after the United States. According to the Biotechnology Information Center, in Brazil, 76 different GMOs are allowed and most of this production is soybean (93%), followed by maize (82%) and cotton (66%).

Brazil recently launched the transgenic soybean Cultivance through a technical cooperation between Embrapa and BASF company. The new technology is considered a milestone for Brazilian science because it contains the first genetically modified soybeans fully developed in Brazil, from laboratory research to commercialization.

EU livestock producers are heavily dependent on imports of protein derived mainly genetically modified soy from North and South America. According to the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), about 35 million tons per year, mainly transgenic soy, are imported.