News 02.06.2023

Labelling New GMOs is Crucial for Consumer Choice

  • Pesticides

The European Commission plans to propose a loosening of rules regarding new genomic techniques and their products. Consequently, consumers' rights to transparency and information about their food would be undermined. foodwatch calls for Commissioners to veto.   

Agriculture in the European Union to date has been largely free from the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO). However, newer methods of genetic engineering, so called New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), are now being promoted as a way to reduce pesticide use by developing new pest and/or disease resistant varieties of certain crops. There is a narrative that has been widely spread by industry und New GM proponents genetically modified crops are needed to achieve the “Farm to Fork” goals by 2030.

If the European Commission proposes to exclude new GMOs from the current strict labelling regime, consumers would no longer be able to make informed choices on the market. we see this as acting in contravention of these two fundamental EU laws.
Heidi Porstner GMO expert of foodwatch Austria

EC-proposal would deregulate new GMOs

As the European Commission gets ready to unveil its new proposal on the new generation of genetically modified organisms (new GMOs) created by so-called New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), the question on whether they will be deregulated is heating up. 

So far discussions mainly focus on how risky or safe new GMOs are or could be. However, the question that is at least as important for farmers, food processors, food retail and consumers, is that if and how  new GMOs must be labelled. 

Consumers' Right to Transparency

Studies indicate that consumers prefer to have information about GMO content in their food, enabling them to choose conventional, organic, or GMO-free options. By labelling new GMOs, farmers, food processors, retailers, and consumers can exercise their right to decide what they grow, use, sell, and eat, including the choice of GMO-free options.

The upcoming EC-proposal could threaten consumers’ and farmers’ right to transparency. foodwatch urges Vice-President Timmermans, Environment Commissioner Sinkevičius, and Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski to veto the new legislative proposal. Strict regulation and clear labeling of new GMOs are needed to emphasize the best interests of farmers, consumers, and the environment. 

European Commission must address NGT criticism

foodwatch received a reply to a letter voicing our concerns to the European Commission. The Commission’s reply, signed by Claire Bury, Deputy Director-General in DG Health and Food Safety, reiterated that they see new GMOs as a real potential for pesticide reduction even if the evidence is not yet clear and the timeline even less so. foodwatch maintains that the solutions needed for pesticide reduction are proven and work and do not need new GMOs. In June 2022, foodwatch presented a concrete crop-by-crop strategy for a pesticide-free EU agriculture by 2035. The first and most important step towards this would be the introduction of an EU-wide pesticide tax.

The risk of further corporate capture of agriculture through patents of new GMO seeds is another risk.