GMOs, the EU’s Next Homemade PR Disaster

By  Franziska Achterberg and cross-posted from EU Observer

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans has argued that EU buck-passing contributed to the Brexit vote. He also said EU governments have developed a habit of taking ownership when things go well and blaming it on Brussels when it doesn’t.

Now the commission is about to serve up a fresh meal to EU-bashers on a silver platter. This time, the main ingredient will be three pesticide-producing GM maize varieties

In the recent battle over Europe’s most used and most controversial weedkiller, glyphosate, Timmermans complained that key countries abstained from a crucial vote to decide the fate of the chemical. “The commission does not have the luxury to abstain,” he told MEPs in June.

It’s fair enough to complain about EU countries hiding behind the commission, but is it right for the commission to impose a decision that only a minority of EU governments wants to take?

Unkept promises

Under the current process – known as comitology – EU countries can’t do much to reign in the commission. They can block a commission decision only if they can muster a qualified majority against it. If there is no qualified majority in favour of, or against, the proposal, this counts as “no opinion”.

The commission can then go ahead without majority support for its proposal. The commission has done this in decisions on GM crops and pesticides, but in no other policy fields, as a report shows.

In February 2014, 19 out of 28 EU countries opposed the approval of DuPont Pioneer’s 1507 GM maize. But short of a qualified majority, even 19 governments could not force the commission to scrap the approval.

Responding to this surreal situation, Juncker said in 2014, before taking office, that he “would not want the commission to be able to take a decision when a majority of member states has not encouraged it to do so.” He promised to change the way GM crops are authorised.

But Juncker has done nothing to change the process. Instead, his commission has authorised at least 30 other GM crops for import to the EU, even though the crops were backed by less than half of EU countries

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