Also postponement of the introduction of NGT techniques in EU agriculture

In the European Union, the discussion of an important agricultural proposal will once again be postponed. This time there is not yet a majority for the criteria under which new genetic techniques (NGTs) can be permitted.

The current Belgian EU presidency says it will ask the EU countries for a position and vote in June at the earliest. Because the European Parliament (EP) will be on election leave, the final negotiations will in any case be postponed until the autumn. 

At the end of last year, the previous Spanish EU presidency also failed to get the 27 EU countries to agree on this proposal.

The biggest stumbling block is the question of whether the lightest form of genetic editing (the so-called Crispr-cas scissor technique) should also be permitted in organic agriculture, and whether such editing must always be mentioned on the label. 

It has also not yet been determined whether (chemical) companies can apply for patents on NGT-processed seeds and seed potatoes. It has also not yet been determined whether the Crispr-cas scissors will only be permitted for a limited number of agricultural products, or for all. 

The European Parliament already said in February that new labeling will be necessary because, according to the EU politicians, NGT processing should be kept out of organic farming. That position is supported by a (blocking) minority of EU countries, but by no means all.

It is not entirely surprising that the proposal for the accelerated admission of new GMO techniques is in danger of failing. At the beginning of last year, the proposal – under pressure from the Christian Democrats EPP in the European Parliament – was linked to the SUR proposal for reducing the use of chemicals in agriculture.

The latter proposal was subsequently watered down last year under pressure from several EU countries and the centre-right majority of the European Parliament, to such an extent that the initial proponents withdrew their eventual support for the pesticide plan. With that, it disappeared – highly exceptionally – from the EU agendas.

Something like this is now also in danger of happening with the NGT proposal, just like with the also criticized Nature Restoration Act, the update of the Animal Welfare Act, the proposal for a EU directive against soil pollution and the Forest Act that is still being prepared.