Photo: Peter Blanchard, Flickr/CC BY-SA
There's a unique initiative built into the new EU constitutional treaty, called the "European citizen's initiative". It allows a million or more people to join together, in the form of a petition, to ask the governing body to change legislation. And guess what the first test run for the initiative's efficacy is going to be? A petition, sponsored by Greenpeace, that asks the EU to stop approving new genetically modified foods. More than a million people have signed on to support the measure.The petition asks the European Commission to put a hold on all new GMO approvals, and would establish a body charged with scientifically investigating the dangers and merits of genetically modified crops.
"Over a million people across Europe have set the EU a democratic test -- will the EU address the real concern people have about GM crops and food, or will it side with the chemical industry lobbyists controlling GM technology?" Greenpeace's EU Director Jorgo Riss said. "Until safety issues of GMs are examined by independent experts, all GM authorizations should stop."Which means that European lawmakers are considering the million-plus signatures in the current petition as technically ineligible under the current rules, since they weren't collected after the law was established. Nonetheless, the commissioner responsible for approving GMOs says that he would take a serious look at the petition.
Detailed rules for how the citizen's initiative will work are currently being finalized by EU governments and lawmakers, and are not expected to be in force until the end of next year, at the earliest.
If anything, the affair demonstrates the widespread animosity towards GMOs in Europe -- whether or not the petition ends up being deemed legally valid, it has indubitably sent a powerful message to the EU's governors and beyond.