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GMO authorisations: 'Commission bulldozing through genetically-modified maize in spite of concerns'

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Logo_greens-efaBy The Greens/European Free Alliance

The European Commission has today (6 November) proposed authorising the cultivation of a new variety of genetically modified maize (1507, marketed as Herculex outside the EU) in the EU, which would be first GM maize to be approved in 15 years. The Greens have raised major concerns with the proposed authorisation of this crop, which has been genetically modified to produce a pesticide toxin targeting moths and butterflies and to withstand a herbicide.

Commenting on the decision, Green MEP and vice chair of the EP's agriculture committee José Bové said: "It is scandalous that the Commission is trying to bulldoze through the authorisation of this GM maize crop in spite of the massive opposition of EU citizens, as well as member state governments, to GMOs. The risks of this maize have not been properly assessed, with major gaps in safety testing. The Commission is ignoring very real concerns about the harmful impacts of GM maize 1507 on butterflies, which are essential pollinators, as well as the risks of cross-contamination of conventional and organic crops. The Commission should be heeding the concerns of EU consumers, farmers and civil society instead of aggressively pushing the agenda of biotech corporations to foist GMOs onto the EU market and into our fields. EU environment ministers should naturally reject this proposal when they consider it." (1)

Commenting on the wider implications for GMO authorisations in Europe, Green food safety and environment spokesperson Bart Staes said: "Today's proposals to force through this GM maize should renew concerns about the dogged and ideology-driven pro-GMO agenda of the Commission in the context of the on-going debate on the EU's GMO authorisation process. Five years ago, environment ministers called on the Commission to reform the EU's GMO authorisation process to take account of the consistently negative decisions in the EU's Council of Ministers on GMO approvals. The partial renationalisation of competences on GM cultivation, subsequently proposed by the Commission but stalled in the legislative process, must not be a trick to allow the Commission to force through swifter and easier EU level authorisations. This would be at total odds with public will. Any new approval procedure should not be a tool for the Commission to bully EU member states into accepting authorisations for GM crops for which legitimate concerns clearly exist."

(1) The Commission today (6 November) proposed the approval of GM maize 1507. This will now be forwarded to the Council for EU member states to decide. If no decision is reached in Council, current EU rules enable the Commission to push ahead with the approval. The Commission also launched initial procedures on three other products containing genetically modified maize.

Agriculture

Agriculture: Commission publishes list of potential eco-schemes

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The Commission published a list of potential agricultural practices that eco-schemes could support in the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Part of the CAP reform currently under negotiation between the European Parliament and the Council, eco-schemes are a new instrument designed to reward farmers who choose to go further in terms of environmental care and climate action. This list aims to contribute to the debate around the CAP reform and its role in reaching the Green Deal targets. This list also enhances transparency of the process for establishing the Strategic CAP Plans, and provides farmers, administrations, scientists and stakeholders a basis for further discussion on making the best use of this new instrument.

The future CAP will play a crucial role in managing the transition towards a sustainable food system and in supporting European farmers throughout. Eco-schemes will contribute significantly to this transition and to the Green Deal targets. The Commission published the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies in May 2020. The Commission presented its proposals for the CAP reform in 2018, introducing a more flexible, performance and results-based approach that takes into account local conditions and needs, while increasing EU level ambitions in terms of sustainability. The European Parliament and Council agreed on their negotiating positions on the reform of the CAP on 23 and 21 October 2020, respectively, enabling the start of the trilogues on 10 November 2020. The Commission is determined to play its full role in the CAP trilogue negotiations as an honest broker between the co-legislators and as a driving force for greater sustainability to deliver on the European Green Deal objectives. A factsheet is available online and more information can be found here.

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Agriculture

Farm to Fork: Commission takes action to further reduce the use of dangerous pesticides

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As part of the EU's commitment to make food systems more sustainable and to protect citizens from harmful substances, the European Commission has today decided to withdraw Mancozeb from the EU market. Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The protection of citizens and the environment from dangerous chemicals is a priority for the European Commission. Reducing the dependency on chemical pesticides is a key pillar of the Farm to Fork strategy we presented last spring. We cannot accept that pesticides harmful to our health are used in the EU. Member states should now urgently withdraw all authorisations for plant protection products containing Mancozeb”.

Mancozeb is an active substance which is used in a number of pesticides in the EU. The proposal was supported by member states in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed in October. It follows the scientific assessment by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) which confirmed health concerns, in particular having a toxic effect on reproduction, and the protection of the environment. Mancozeb also has endocrine disrupting properties for humans and for animals. Member states will now have to withdraw authorizations for all plant protection products containing Mancozeb by June 2021.

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Agriculture

Commission approves €9.3 million Croatian scheme to support enterprises active in primary agricultural sector affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved an approximately €9.3 million (HRK 70m) Croatian scheme to support enterprises active in certain primary agricultural sectors affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support, which will take the form of direct grants, will be open to breeders of cattle and sow as well as producers of apples, mandarins and potatoes in Croatia. The measure is expected to support more than 6,500 enterprises.  The aim of the scheme is to address the liquidity needs of enterprises that suffered a decrease in sales and to help them to continue their activities during and after the outbreak.

The Commission found that the Croatian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid will not exceed €100,000 per beneficiary, as provided by the Temporary Framework for undertakings in the primary agricultural sector; and (ii) the aid under the scheme can be granted until 30 June 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under the EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59815 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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