New GMOs and seed exchange, the shame

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New GMOs and seed exchange

On 24 April 2024, the European Parliament expressed its opinion on two issues of primary interest to farmers, the deregulation of new GMOs (New Genomic Techniques, NTGs) as well as the regulation on seeds exchange and the marketing of plant reproductive material.

1) Farmers, requests ignored

Farmers have taken to the streets across Europe to ask for a #fairprice guarantee on their products, with a strict ban on #salesbelow-cost, as well as the redistribution of CAP funds in favor of small and medium-sized companies (where now 20% of agricultural companies collects 80% of the contributions). (1,2) In addition to the simplification of bureaucracy and the revision of free trade agreements, which force European farmers into downward competition with non-EU production. (3)

The European institutions have completely ignored the requests of protesting farmers and civil society, favoring them the pressures of finance in agriculture and of the large agricultural confederations at its service (i.e. Coldiretti, Copa-Cogeca, Farm Europe). Thus, no response on commercial practices and sales below-cost which forced the closure of 37% of EU farms between 2006 and 2021. And lastly, the European Parliament’s vote in favor of the deregulation of new GMOs (4) and the reduction of farmers’ rights over their seeds. (5)

2) Deregulation of new GMOs

The European Parliament – with 336 votes in support of the deregulation of NTGs, 238 against and 41 abstentions (6) – demonstrated its unconditional support for the agro-industrial oligarchies.

The unresolved issues are several and of no small importance:

  • the European Parliament decided without waiting for an impact assessment of the new rules on European agriculture by the European Commission
  • the field of application of patents on NTG is in fact extended to traditional seeds (conservation varieties) subjected to even minimal genetic manipulation
  • the precautionary principle is blatantly not applied, in the face of risk assessment reports published by ANSES (France), the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Germany) and the Center for Risk Analysis in the Agri-food Chain (Bulgaria) . (7)

The MEPs’ decision also threatens the survival of organic farming, the most profitable sector for farmers. It also violates consumers’ right to make free and informed purchasing choices.

3) Seed exchange

The expiring MEPs also took care to guarantee the patents of the four ‘Corporations’ that dominate the global market of seeds, as well as pesticides.

The only right partially recognized for farmers is the exchange of seeds and reproductive material, in limited quantities, as part of agricultural activities (and not, as proposed by the Commission, as a commercial practice). And yet:

  • the exchange of seeds and reproductive material between farmers will in any case be subject to the health regulations laid down for the seed trade, with heavy burdens that are in fact incompatible with agricultural activity
  • seed companies will be able to appropriate farmers’ traditional varieties, under the pretext that they have not yet been officially registered
  • the safeguard clause which allowed Member States to prohibit the cultivation on their territory of varieties potentially harmful to health, the environment or traditional agricultural systems is eliminated
  • heterogeneous material and conservation varieties could be covered by patents, effectively denying farmers the right to use the seeds that come from their own crops
  • herbicide-tolerant varieties remain without specific rules. (7)

4) Changing EU agricultural policies

The outgoing European Parliament has done everything possible to force farmers into increasing dependence on seed and agrochemical multinationals companies. Rejecting the repeated requests of the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) – the only true representation of family and peasant agriculture (8,9).

Changing agricultural and food policies in the EU is possible, carrying forward the requests of ECVC and the EU Food Policy Coalition. As Dario Dongo, candidate in the North-East Collage in the Peace, Land and Dignity movement, in the European elections to be held in Italy on 8-9 June 2024 – also aspires to do in the European Parliament. (10)

#CleanSpades #PeaceLandDignity

Dario Dongo and Alessandra Mei

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo. PAC, the ‘last-minute’ offer. Consumers are angry tooGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.4.24

(2) The Largest 50 Beneficiaries in each EU Member State of CAP and Cohesion Funds. European Parliament, CONT Committee. January, 2021 https://tinyurl.com/42zzaern

(3) Dario Dongo. Green light for EU agreements with Chile and KenyaGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.2.24

(4) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. New GMOs, NGTs. Green light from Strasbourg to deregulationGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.2.24

(5) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Seed exchange among farmers, the EU reformGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.3.24

(6) Results of European Parliament votes. 9.4.24 https://tinyurl.com/mpsn6wvp

(7) Votes on GMO/NTG and seeds in the European Parliament: repeated violations of farmers’ rights. ECVC extension. 25.4.24 https://tinyurl.com/yckavjp5

(8) Dario Dongo. Via Campesina, farmers’ priorities in the European electionsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.4.24

(9) Dario Dongo. Seed exchanges and new GMOs up for vote in the European ParliamentGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.4.24

(10) Dario Dongo. Peace, Land and Dignity. Our movement in the 2024 European electionsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.3.24

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.