A giant image of genetically modified corn, portrayed as in a nightmare, hangs from EU institutional headquarters. It is the work of Greenpeace environmental activists warning decision-makers about what they called serious health and environmental risks from GMOs. This came as experts at national level studied reforming the EU’s authorisation process for GM products. This has systematically defaulted to the European Commission when the member states fail to act decisively.
Greece’s expert Petros Varelidis, said: “The Commission tries to hide behind EFSA’s opinion, which is always positive.” EFSA is the European Food Safety Authority. Critics say it and the Commission rubber-stamp whatever the agro-biotech industry comes up with. A Commission spokesman explained procedure in this way: “The people who deal in EFSA with GMOS are the leading experts in the European Union on GMOs. We act in a neutral way in the European Commission, we send applications for GMOs to EFSA and if EFSA says yes to them, then we can begin the process of sending GMOs for a vote by the member states.” Greenpeace urged the EU governments and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to change the system, assess long-term GM impact and prevent GM pollination of non-GM areas. Marco Contiero, Greenpeace European Unit said: “The group nominated by Barroso, this so-called ‘Sherpa group’, it actually does not have a clear agenda, does not have a clear aim, does not have a clear scope, the only scope, hidden scope, of this group is to steer the debate towards a pro-GMO position.” Some EU states, such as France and Austria have repeatedly raised scientific doubts about GMOs and others, like the UK and Spain, support them wholeheartedly. A council vote typically produces a hung jury. The environment ministers will assess reform recommendations next week.