Activists call on Maltese to petition Borg against GM compromise

Avaaz claims that Commissioner Tonio Borg wants to approve Du Pont’s Maize 1507, a crop designed to produce its own pesticide.

European Commissioner Tonio Borg
European Commissioner Tonio Borg

Updated on 24 June

The Avaaz online activist network is calling on Maltese activists to petition Maltese European Commissioner Tonio Borg not to grant approval to the first new genetically modified crop across Europe in 16 years, over serious doubts about GMOs’ long-term health and environmental impacts.

“Malta and 18 other states voted to keep this crop out and the EU Parliament voted against it. It is outrageous [that Borg] is thinking of pushing it through. Commissioner Borg has listened to citizen concerns before – he halted the use of bee killing pesticides after voters shared concerns,” Avaaz said.

“We have been protected by an EU policy based on the precautionary principle, but Borg could break it unless we speak out. Insiders think he will announce this on Wednesday, so we need to act fast to change Borg’s mind."

Avaaz claims that Commissioner Borg wants to approve Du Pont’s Maize 1507, a crop designed to produce its own pesticide.

The group says there are multiple questions and concerns about GM crops: contamination of organic crops and the environment; their impact on climate due to the excessive need for pesticides; the destruction of biodiversity and local agriculture; and the effects of GM food on public health.

Deputy prime minister Louis Grech rejected the crop, saying that the scientific evidence of its safety was not convincing.

Speaking at the General Affairs Council, Louis Grech said that the scientific evidence provided on the subject had not convinced many governments or European citizens about the environmental and health risks involved.

Grech cautioned the Commission against merely looking at legislative procedural issues when the vast majority of member states and citizens were against the proposal. "It would be unwise and unproductive for the Commission not to heed to these concerns," Grech said.

The General Affairs Council is discussing a very difficult dossier on the Commission proposal on genetically modified maize (1507) which was presented by Maltese Commissioner Tonio Borg and follows the latest judgment of the European Court of Justice on the file late last year. 

Only five of the 28 member states actually support the crop, while in January, the European Parliament voted against it citing concerns that it may be harmful to butterflies and moths, warning that cultivation could lead to a surge in the use of glufosinate, a toxic herbicide that will be phased out of the European Union by 2017.

Glufosinate has however been officially approved as safe for use in the EU until September 2017 and is not yet under review. Current EU registration is valid until 30 September 2017, after which it will be proposed for re-registration.

Borg has pushed through a compromise that he says will let each state to decide for itself whether to allow cultivation.

“This plan would break EU wide policy and open countries which don’t want GM up to lawsuits from the massive companies pushing these crops,” Avaaz said.

“It’s not too late for Commissioner Borg to change his mind – let’s make sure he knows that people from his home state aren’t ready for this poisonous plant. Click below to send your message straight to the commissioner and share this email with everyone.”

Four years ago former Maltese Commissioner for health John Dalli authorised a GM potato, and 1.2 million Avaaz members joined the fight back. In the end, the EU’s own Court of Justice annulled the approval. is a 36-million-person global campaign network whose team is spread across 18 countries on six continents and operates in 17 languages.