EU Commission Deciding on GMO Maize Cultivation – Update on EU Action Alert

By Theresa

Creating, selling and cultivating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) raises a number of decisive human rights issues. Therefore, we urged all readers who are residing in the EU and/or are EU citizens to join the protest against the EU Commission’s attempts to extend GMO maize cultivation in the EU. This post is a continuous update on the process, and informs you about the votes from 27 March 2017.


For the first time since 1998, people in the EU are again confronted with attempts to grow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their countries. The EU Commission wanted to take a decision about this by vote on Friday, 27 January 2017.

The agenda of the meeting specified: two new strains of GM maize — Bt11 by Syngenta and 1507 by DuPont Pioneer — could be cultivated and  Monsanto’s MON810, which has already been grown in Spain and Portugal, is open for re-approval. These three decisions were taken by vote from political representatives to the EU Commission. Therefore, EU citizens and residents could influence it – and we asked you to join by advertising the platform which the Green’s MEP offered.

Voting Results Only Available at the Grapevine

What were the voting results from 27 January 2017? According to the French press agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), there was no qualified majority to oppose the approval so it was then up to the EU Commission to take a decision. All leading German newspapers took up this piece of information.

I wrote a post on my research for the voting records. The first email and letter contained the voting sheets which you see on this photo:

voting sheets

According to the grapevine, the EU Commission was going to ask the Member States to vote again in the Appeal Committee on 27 March 2017.

Update: Vote Gives Decision-Making to the EU Commission

The grapevine proved correct. As the EU Commission emailed to journalists:

“Today, a vote took place at the level of Deputy Permanent Representatives of Member States (Appeal Committee) on the authorisation for cultivation of 3 GMOs in the EU: Maize Bt11 (new authorisation) Maize 1507 (new authorisation) and Maize MON810 (renewal of authorisation).

No qualified majority of Member States, either in favour or against the authorisation, could be reached. The outcome was a ‘no opinion’, as had also been the case at the expert Committee meeting of 27 January. Once again, the Commission will have no choice but to take the responsibility for the EU decision in relation to these requests for authorisation.

Today, the Appeal Committee took also a vote on Maize for food & feed use. Even in this case the result was a ‘no opinion’, without a qualified majority of Member States in favour or against.  (This vote concerned GM maize Bt11 x 59122 x MIR604 x 1507 x GA21, and genetically modified maize combining two, three or four of the events Bt11, 59122, MIR604, 1507 and GA21 for food and feed).”

Once again, we remain without any official knowledge about how states voted. There are some sources reporting on the voting conduct, such as Food Navigator. Since I displayed my hunt for states’ voting conduct in an earlier post, I focus on a bigger issue here: how ‘the majority’ is counted in this decision making.

Let’s take the example of the renewal of MON810. 12 states voted against it and 6 states abstained (including Germany which contradicts the majority opinion of German citizens). These 12 states stand in contrast to 10 states which voted in favour of renewing MON810 in the EU. Good news: Italy and Lithuania turned from ‘in favour’ to ‘against’ on all crops including MON810.

Yet, the EU Commission claims that there was ‘no opinion’ in the voting procedure. Why can the EU Commission claim that the EU member states did not make their mind up with only 10 states favouring the renewal of MON810?

The reason is simple: it is not only the amount of states, but the percentage of population in the EU which is decisive. A qualified majority is achieved when at least 16 countries, representing at least 65% of the European population, vote in favour or against.

Consequently, the Appeal Committee votes did not lead to discarding the authorisations and the renewal of GMOs for the very same reason the January votes failed.

While this is a good reason to be angry at, in my case, the German government, it also leaves open the question whether the 65-percent rule is truly democratic. The biological fact is that allowing GMOs to be grown in the EU renders it likely that organic and conventional food will be contaminated risking human and animal health.

Manu Chao have dedicated this song to the struggle for peasant and seed freedom and against Monsanto, Bayer and destructive agriculture.

What’s Next?

The votes in January and March 2017 did not yield enough opposition against the introduction and renewal of these three GM maize. Since it was the idea of the EU Commission to propose authorising the cultivation of DuPont Pioneer’s 1507 maize and Syngenta’s Bt11 maize, and to renew the licence for Monsanto’s maize MON810, it is likely that the three GMOs will be autorised. You can follow the EU Commission’s official work on GMOs here. Civil society initiatives like the Monsanto Tribunal show that we do not need to accept this bureaucratic development.

Watch this space, and the websites of organisations such as GM Freeze, Greenpeace and GMWatch to stay up to date!


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