On Monday 28 September 2020, the European Commission authorised a genetically modified organism (GMO) for food and feed use: the glyphosate resistant soybean MON 87708 x MON 89788 x A5547-127.
The authorisation of these genetically modified soybeans followed a favourable risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA evaluates the safety of new GMO products before a market authorisation decision is taken by EU Member States or the European Commission.
As a part of the authorisation procedure, all EU Member States were able to express their view in the Standing Committee on Crops, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) and subsequently in the Appeal Committee. These committees are part of the European Commission and gather national representatives from EU Member States. Given their failure to reach a qualified majority, the European Commission had to take the responsibility for the final authorisation decision.
The European Commission adopted the referred decision in spite of the European Parliament’s negative opinion on the authorisation of these genetically modified soybeans. One of the European Parliament’s main concerns was the expected high quantity of residues in the harvest caused by the soybeans crops. Furthermore, the negative opinion warned about the probable carcinogen potential of glyphosate, in accordance with data provided by the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation. Concerning the decision-making procedure, the European Parliament considered that the European Commission had exceeded its implementing powers. This is because the European Commission had authorised the GMO soybeans without a qualified majority of EU Member States in favour.
Scope of the authorisation
Although, in principle, GMO authorisations are valid throughout the EU and could be valid for cultivation and/or marketing of food and feed and derived products the present authorisation does not permit the cultivation of genetically modified soybeans in the EU.
Any products produced from this genetically modified soybean will be required to comply with EU's labelling and traceability rules.
The authorisation decision is valid for 10 years. After that period, the genetically modified soybeans must be re-assessed by EFSA before any re-authorisation decision is taken.
Authored by Elisabethann Wright & Silvia Lopez Arnao