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Brussels Gives in to Luddite Anti-GMO Movement

The European Commission just proposed new legislation that would allow members to restrict imports of genetically modified crops even if research has demonstrated that the crops are safe. Brussels sees this new proposal as a kind of middle ground in the GMO debate, as the WSJ lays out:

Under the plan…the commission would promptly approve biotech crops for import after they have been deemed safe by EU scientific authorities. That has been a long-standing gripe from U.S. officials and the biotech industry: Crops that have passed scientific reviews get stuck in Europe’s regulatory limbo; the commission is reluctant to defy member states that oppose biotechnology by approving the crops, even though it has the legal authority to do so.

But the proposal would also allow a member state to ban the use of these crops if it believes there is an “overriding” public interest. EU lawyers say this provision, reflecting what is essentially moral opposition to biotechnology in some EU nations, would allow bans under WTO rules, even on biotech crops that have passed safety reviews.

But this “middle ground” gives environmentalists far too much credit. Greens have long railed against GMOs. At first, they did so in the name of public safety, but study after study has exonerated these high-tech crops. Now green opposition isn’t left with much of a leg to stand on besides that uncomfortable feeling one might get when imagining some grotesque “frankenfood” hybrid on one’s kitchen table.

This is irresponsible, to say the least. Genetically modified crops can produce higher yields in more adverse conditions, helping to feed the kind of hotter, overpopulated planet that greens warn is in our near future. With this new proposed law, Brussels is pandering to Luddite foolishness.

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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s protectionism, pure and simple.

  • Kieselguhr Kid

    Honestly, this blog ought to stay away from science because it picks a simple idea (fracking good, GMOs good, greens bad) and cheers it on moronically. I’m generally a promoter of GMO use and an opponent of labelling laws, and I’ve worked on and with a lot of genetically modified organisms. I’d like to see them more broadly used. But what Brussels has done is, in fact, _allowed_ the use and import of GMOs: it has _removed_ a barrier — but it allows member states not to follow its dictates. To do otherwise would’ve said that an undemocratic, unaccountable body has just forced the member states to suck up whatever it says. If Europe wants to encourage its population to understand GMOs better and to get over their fear, great! (Of course, America hasn’t done a great job….) But, seriously, is some doofus who fancies himself _conservative_ cheering that an unaccountable bureaucracy couldn’t force it’s (scientifically justified) decision down the throats — literally — of the unwilling governed?

    • Andrew Allison

      In what other areas does the EU allow member states not to follow its diktats? The imposition of rules written in Brussels on once-Sovereign nations is one of the major causes of friction within the EU. This is simply a way to provide member states with a protectionist tool that Brussels couldn’t justify implementing itself.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        Firstly, there are vast areas where member EU states have different economic policies. But secondly, your objection makes no sense. As I pointed out, the commission didn’t _add_ a barrier, it _removed_ one. In the absence of this decsion GMOs might be blocked by “Europe” _and_ by the member states. Now they’re _only_ blocked by the member states, and furthermore the EU is essentially endorsing the scientific opinion of its own experts, putting pressure on the member states. A protectionist barrier is certainly left in place — although it is not sensible to ascribe that barrier “simply” to protectionism; speaking with many European and indeed American consumers ought to convince you that an awful lot of them are genuinely ifirrationally disturbed by GMOs — but it is bizarre to call the _removal_ of a barrier a “protectionist” measure. It is not.

        • Andrew Allison

          Note the use of the word “shall” rather than “may” in:
          To exercise the Union’s competences, the institutions shall adopt regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions.
          A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.
          A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods. (Article 288)

          • Kieselguhr Kid

            That’s a wonderful theoretical answer that proves the silliness of the original objection: note that despite that use of the word “shall,” there are, _exactly as I claimed_, vast areas of economic policy difference between states. You’re saying that the EU claims the right to dictate policy all over the regulatory domain — and I”m saying, yes but in most areas it _doesn’t_. And you have no answer to that.

          • Andrew Allison

            Where to begin? Well, first, the original post had nothing whatsoever to do with science: it was commentary on a purely political act. Second, the EU had already established a procedure to approve GMO’s; the new regulation is simply a mechanism to allow member states not to accept them. You also appear unable to grasp the fact that the EU, quite possibly in violation of the Treaty, has thereby established the precedent that member states can pick and choose which regulations to adopt (the implications of which should be apparent). Moving right along, your response to a request for another example of the EU making it’s regulations optional was met with a demonstrably false, and irrelevant, generality: as noted above, according to the Treaty, members can decide how to implement a directive, but not whether to do so.
            Quite apart from the practical matter of the inevitable cross-border transmittal, all that banning GMOs achieve is increasing costs for consumers. Last but not least, contrary to your latest nonsensical assertion, far from encouraging members to approve GMOs, the EU is providing them with the option to ignore the scientific evidence and ban GMOs on purely political grounds. The ill-informed public resistance to GMO’s is not in their best interests and if the governments concerned were really concerned about the public, rather than agricultural interests, there would be a serious effort to educate them. After all, there’s no such thing (including yours truly) as a non-GMO. Changing the subject only slightly, surely it’s self-evident that survival of the fittest applies equally to naturally and artificially modified organisms?

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