Can Science Tame Politics: The Collapse of the New GMO Regime in the EU

On 2 March 2010 the European Commission authorised the cultivation of a BASF’s genetically modified potato “Amflora” throughout the European Union. This came after a tortuous process commenced in 1996 and so far it is the only authorisation of a GMO for cultivation in EU since the current regulation was established. On 3 March 2010, President Barroso announced that the Commission intends to propose amendments to the current regulation to allow the Member States to prohibit the cultivation of GMO authorised for cultivation in the EU and it did so on June 13, 2010. This is one of the very few cases where decision-making power is effectively devolved back from Union to state level; it is even more impressive that this is happening on the initiative of the Commission and despite the obvious negative consequences for the internal market. In the meantime BASF botched the 2011 growing season for Amflora in Sweden and in 2012 announced that it withdraws its GM crops from the EU. This article follows the saga purports to find the reasons why it entailed an immediate change.

The historic context of the GMO regulation in EU and the controversies with the US in WTO are wellknown. 3 It is widely accepted that the BSA (mad cow) disease and several other prominent food scares in Europe throughout the 90s lead to salience and polarised opinions on what elsewhere appears as “technical” issue and to the widespread aversion to GMOs in Europe. Actually the scepticism to GMOs predates these scares; Morris and Spillane in their historic account of biotech regulation in EU note that “if compliance with rules is a key indicator of legitimacy, by the mid 1990’s the EU’s GMO regulatory framework was beginning to loose its legitimacy.” Many member states invoked the safeguard clauses in the regulation then in force to ban GMOs on their territory; by 1998 twelve of them have declared that they would not support any new authorisations. In the face of that, the Commission ceased authorisation procedures and thus the notorious de facto moratorium began. It lasted till 2004 and in the meantime a brand new regime for GMO regulation in EU was elaborated and established.

Copyright: © Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH
Source: Issue 02/2012 (Juni 2012)
Pages: 12
Price: € 41,65
Autor: Vesco Paskalev

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