Contradictory results in Strasbourg
7 February 2024 / The EU Parliament (EP) today voted in favour of the deregulation of plants derived from new genetic engineering (NGT). It is doubtful that all MEPs have understood what they decided. A comment by Pascal Canfin on X (formerly Twitter), in which he claims that these plants would only be used to save pesticides and combat climate change, seems almost satirical. Canfin is chairman of the EP’s Environment Committee. He also suggested that a vote should be held first and only then should EFSA be asked for a further opinion on the risks.
Contrary to expectations, the proposal for deregulation was only adopted by a narrow majority. In addition, amendments on labeling, traceability, environmental monitoring and a clause on the possible revocation of an authorization were also adopted. However, these amendments are only partially coherent with the rest of the text. The EP also voted in favour of a ban on the patenting of NGT plants, although it is clear that this cannot be achieved by the EU.
Not adopted was a passage that requires risk assessment of all NGT plants and a restriction of the simplified approval process to annual arable crops. Consequently, also NGT trees, grasses and algae could be released into the environment without risk assessment.
Overall, the result was much closer than expected and also surprising. What an agreement with the EU member states might look like remains to be seen. If the EP insists on labelling and a ban on patenting, a compromise with the Council seems to be difficult. If the EP gives in on these points, today’s tight majority could fall apart in the final EP vote.
Currently, the Council does not seem to be in favour of the deregulation anyway. This became evident in a meeting of the permanent representatives in Brussels today. The Belgian Presidency failed to reach a majority for the Commission proposal.
Christoph Then, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel + 49 151 54638040