Parliament Magazine  [Printer-friendly version]
April 3, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The European Union must take precautionary
measures to prevent genetic contamination of conventional crops
because Europe's farmers have a clear right to keep genetically
modified organisms (GMO) out of their fields, says Friedrich Wilhelm
Graefe zu Baringdorf, a member of the European Parliament.]

By Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, MEP

European farmers and consumers widely refuse genetically modified
plants in their fields and on their tables.

Agriculture and rural development commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is
aware of this. She stated in a recent interview that she would never
force farmers to grow GMOs.

The [European] commission and member states must indeed guarantee
farmers and consumers the freedom of choice. Therefore, they need
rules that guarantee GMO free agriculture and food in Europe.

However, the authorized use of GM technology in agriculture
deliberately exposes farmers and processors to the risk of crop and
food contamination via pollination, harvesting machinery, transport
and processing.

To date, there is no legislation in place regulating precautionary
measures or liability for this loss of choice. There is only EU law on
labelling the presence of GMOs in food.

Coexistence rules have only been set up in four EU member states.

Commissioner Fischer Boel tells us that because of a lack of practical
experience, we cannot yet assess the full effectiveness and economic
impact of these rules. She is right.

But it is exactly this lack of experience that is the main reason why
we have to be tough on coexistence rules.

We cannot measure the ecological, economic and even health
consequences of the release of GMOs into the environment and we must
therefore guarantee that contamination does not take place where
people reject their use

In many countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, where GMOs are
fully authorised, coexistence has not worked.

Organic farmers have lost their certification, their markets and
consumer trust. These farmers have strongly advised their European
colleagues to insist on the precautionary principle. And on strict
liability rules, which will force farmers to think twice before using

There is no right to contaminate, but there is a right to stay GM free
in conventional and organic farming.

It is not too late to prevent ecological and economic damage; it is
now time for the commission to get its act together.

We need a European framework law on prevention of contamination and on
strict liability rules.

Article 26a in the EU directive on the deliberate release of
genetically modified organisms allows member states to take
appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GM in food

Member states must use this right and the Commission must take its
responsibilities seriously and allow member states to take measures
that guarantee their freedom of choice.

Under certain conditions, this clearly includes the right to prohibit
the release of GMOs into the environment within a region.

This article was originally published in the April 3 edition of the
Parliament Magazine.

Copyright 2006