The Science and Technology Select Committee published a 5th report last week on Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk and precaution, which identifies three major flaws in the EU regulation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Present regulations are based on the assumption that GM crops inherently pose greater risk than crops produced using other techniques. This fails to recognise that the risk posed by a crop has little to do with how it is made and is mostly to do with the characteristics it displays, and how it is used in the field. The current system also assesses the risks posed by these products but fails to balance these with the potentially significant benefits to the producer, the consumer and the environment, leading to a one-sided decision-making process and has sent misleading messages to the public about the potential value of these products, to the economy, society and the environment. Lastly, regulations currently in place prevent EU member states from making their own decisions about whether or not to adopt GM products. This forces member states that are fundamentally opposed to GM to dispute the science, exaggerate uncertainty and misrepresent the precautionary principle in an attempt to prevent EU-wide authorisation.
It was clear from the evidence presented to the Committee that the conditions outlined for precautionary principle, concerning circumstances where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain, are not met simply because a crop has been produced via GM. Continued application of the precautionary principle in relation to all GM crops is therefore no longer appropriate and is acting as barrier to progress in this field.
Author: Siobhan Gardiner, PhD researcher
Image Source: www.telegraph.co.uk