Lobbycracy showcase: 19 EU countries against, 5 in favour of GM maize. Commission sides with the 5
The story of the Pioneer GM maize crop has culminated in the biggest controversy on genetic modification (GM) issues in years. On Tuesday 11 February a record number of 19 EU countries declared themselves to be opposed to Pioneer's GM maize being authorised for cultivation in the EU. This included the Netherlands, Romania and Ireland, all of whom were expected to either vote in favour or abstain just before the vote. Only five countries said they were in favour (among them the UK, Spain and Sweden) and the rest abstained.
Despite the clear majority against authorising the GM maize, these 19 countries still did not have enough weight to reach what is called a 'qualified majority' in the EU's complex decision-making processes. In this sense, abstaining basically translates into being in favour because it prevented a qualified majority from stopping the authorisation. Commissioner Tonio Borg argued that this meant that the Commission was legally forced to go ahead and authorise the maize. France then proposed that the Council (the member states) should not take an official vote at all, which the Commission's Legal Service has confirmed would allow the Commission to withdraw the entire proposal. One day later, they were still arguing about whether the Council had voted or not. It is clear now: they have not.
Nineteen member states, the Parliament and a group of commissioners are all against this maize. Several mobilisations, including Stop the Crop but also Campact in Germany, Nature et Progres in Belgium and others enabled tens of thousands of people to voice their opposition as well. If the Commission goes stubbornly ahead with the authorisation after all, it may well only do so after the European elections in May to avoid more reputational damage for the Commission. This story is a real showcase for lobbycracy and the power of corporate lobbyists!