You are here

A report published today by the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee (STC) identifies major flaws in EU regulation of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The new report, Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk and precaution, identifies three major flaws in current GM regulations in the EU:

Firstly, the report points out that present regulations are based on the assumption that GM crops inherently pose greater risk than crops produced using other techniques. This fails to recognise that the risk posed by a crop has little to do with how it is made and is mostly to do with the characteristics it displays, and how it is used in the field.

Secondly, the STC highlights that the current system assesses the risks posed by GM products but fails to balance these with the potentially significant benefits to the producer, the consumer and the environment. This, they claim, has led to a one-sided decision-making process and has sent misleading messages to the public about the potential value of these products, to the economy, society and the environment.

The third problem the report identifies is that regulations currently in place prevent EU member states from making their own decisions about whether or not to adopt GM products. This forces member states that are fundamentally opposed to GM to dispute the science, exaggerate uncertainty and misrepresent the precautionary principle in an attempt to prevent EU-wide authorisation.

The Society of Biology welcomes the report's call for more open conversations about GM.

Following the release of today’s report, Dr Mark Downs FSB, chief executive of the Society of Biology said:
“I hope that the opportunity is seized, for a progressive and constructive debate about food, farming and the environment. I welcome the broad recognition that genetically modified crops do not inherently pose greater risk than crops produced using other technologies. However, their adoption in particular circumstances should be informed by open debate in which social, personal and environmental concerns play a part. We look forward to helping to widen, re-frame, and de-polarise conversations about GM.”

Professor Helen Sang FSB gave oral evidence on behalf of the Society of Biology at the Committee’s third evidence hearing on GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe in November 2014. This followed the Society’s written response to the consultation in April 2014.

The Committee found that it was clear from the evidence presented to them that the conditions outlined for use of the precautionary principle; when scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain, are not met simply because a crop has been produced via genetic modification. Continued application of the precautionary principle in relation to all GM crops is therefore no longer appropriate and is acting as barrier to progress in this field.

Read more:
EU gives Governments more flexibility on GM crops
Innovation and GM: Managing risk and supporting UK life sciences
Position Statement on plant biotechnology from the UK Plant Science Federation