1.Background briefing National bans on GMOs - Greenpeace
2.FRIDAY: MINISTERS TO VOTE ON GM FOODS
Key test for Europe - Friends of the Earth
Cyber action urging Ministers to reject the Commission proposals at
EXCERPT: "After the recent shocks to the European project, this vote will be a key test for Ministers. It's the unpopular European institutions who have been forcing GM foods onto the market, despite huge public concern right across Europe. Now is the chance for Ministers to help to make Europe more relevant to people, by following public opinion and allowing countries to ban GM foods." (item 2)
1.Background briefing National bans on GMOs
Greenpeace, June 2005
On Friday 24 June, EU member states will vote on a Commission proposal to force the lifting of national bans on the growing of certain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Which countries have national bans?
Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, France and Greece (old bans)
Hungary, Poland and Greece (new bans)
Old bans: The first five member states put in place the so-called "national safeguard clauses" on certain crops before Directive 2001/18/EC came into force. These were implemented under former EU Directive 90/220, now Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC and concerned the following crops:
*maize Bt 176, with insecticidal toxin and antibiotic marker gene, Syngenta company. (Austria, Luxembourg, Germany)
*maize MON810, with insecticidal toxin, Monsanto (Austria)
*maize T25, herbicide resistance, Bayer (Austria)
*rape seed Topas 19/2, herbicide resistance, Bayer (Greece, France)
*rape seed MS1, RF2, herbicide resistance, Bayer (France)
New bans: In 2005, three member states invoked new national bans under Directive 2001/18/EC or the European seed legislation, against the cultivation of GM maize MON810, authorised at the EU level in 1998. By putting 17 varieties of this GM maize on the EU seed catalogue on 8 September 2004, the previous Commission made this GM maize available for sale throughout the EU.
The Commission has asked member states to support their call to lift the old national bans. In the first vote by member states experts in a committee (29 November 2004), just three member states (Portugal, Netherlands, UK) supported the Commission by voting Yes to lift all bans. A qualified majority to reject the proposal was nearly reached in the case of some crops.
The vote will now be put to ministers at the 24 June Environment Council.
Why national bans should not be forcefully lifted:
*On the two rape seed crops: there is ample evidence that growing GM oilseed rape in Europe would lead to unmanageable contamination of wild oilseed rape relatives;
*antibiotic resistance genes: Directive 2001/18/EC laid down that GMOs containing such genes be phased out by 31 December 2004;
*GM maize T25 has been heavily criticised by independent scientists for being improperly investigated.
*Greenpeace research has revealed that contrary to the announcement of the Commission no monitoring plan exists for MON810.
*The impact of the Bt maize (Bt176 and MON810) on beneficial insects and soil organisms has not been properly investigated.
A decision to lift the safeguard clauses under pressure from the Commission could jeopardise the case of the European Union at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as it fights a case initiated by the US, Canada and Argentina (European Communities Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products (WT/DS/291, 292 and 293)). The US has lodged a complaint against national safeguard clauses and against the alleged failure of the Commission to get them lifted. After repeated delays, a final judgement by the WTO panel is now expected in October 2005.
In the current atmosphere of deep crisis for the European institutions, Greenpeace warns that public confidence in the EU will be further undermined if national bans are lifted with the active support of only two member states.
The existing procedures for GMO authorisations already show Europe at its worst: forcing through decisions on the basis of technocratic procedures and confidential expertise, with scant regard for the democratic process.
Greenpeace is therefore urging EU member states to stand together and reject the Commission’s proposals, to support countries against this attempt to restrict their national sovereignty under EU law and international regulations such as the Biosafety Protocol. It is time for EU member states to show that protection of human health and the environment comes first.
2. FRIDAY: MINISTERS TO VOTE ON GM FOODS
Key test for Europe
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release: WEDNESDAY 22 JUNE 2005
CONTACT: Adrian Bebb GM Campaigner +49 1609 490 1163
Brussels 22 June 2005 - Environment Ministers from across Europe will vote this Friday (June 24) on whether countries should lift their bans on genetically modified foods (called GM or GMOs). The proposal to lift the bans has been tabled by the European Commission in response to a dispute over GM foods at the World Trade Organisation, where the United States claim that the national bans are a barrier to trade.
Ministers will also vote on a controversial GM maize which caused unexplained kidney damage to rats, according to research conducted by the manufacturer, biotech giant Monsanto, which refused to release all its results into this maize.
Since 1997, five EU countries have banned various GM crops on safety grounds. (1) The Commission is asking all EU member states to vote on proposals requiring the five countries to lift their bans within 20 days.(2)
One of the GMOs in question, Syngenta's BT176 maize, was never even supported by member states; it was forced onto the market by the Commission in 1997.
The Commission's proposals are seen as a direct result of the trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that was started in 2003 by the United States, Argentina and Canada. These countries, all big producers of GM crops, claim that Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, are a barrier to free trade and harm their farmers. The WTO is expected to deliver an interim ruling in August.
The ministerial vote will also be a key test of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). Last year the EFSA claimed the national bans had no scientific basis. So far, member states have never supported any of the GMO products cleared by the EFSA and Friends of the Earth has been deeply critical of EFSA's pro-biotech position and close links with the GMO industry. (3)
Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "After the recent shocks to the European project, this vote will be a key test for Ministers. It's the unpopular European institutions who have been forcing GM foods onto the market, despite huge public concern right across Europe. Now is the chance for Ministers to help to make Europe more relevant to people, by following public opinion and allowing countries to ban GM foods."
The Ministers will also vote on the import of Monsanto's GMO maize, called MON863. The maize has been seeped in controversy following feeding studies that showed differences in blood cell parameters, kidney weights and kidney structure in rats fed MON863. The EFSA rejected all concerns raised by member states and Monsanto refused to publish the whole feeding study. The German government won a court ruling earlier this month against Monsanto who are trying to prevent the publication of the study.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Adrian Bebb GM Campaigner Friends of the Earth Europe +49 1609 490 1163
(1) Friends of the Earth briefings and a cyber action urging Ministers to reject the Commission proposals are available at
(2) The Commission proposals can be found at: www.foodlaw.rdg.ac.uk/news/eu-05037.htm
(3) The Friends of the Earth report: Throwing Caution to the Wind can be downloaded at: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/publications/EFSAreport.pdf
The national bans are:
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 31/03/2000) - Reason: effects on non-target insects + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals + insects could develop resistance to the Bt
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance Bayer's oilseed rape MS1xRf1 (banned 16/11/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape and spread of herbicide tolerance
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 13/02/1997) - Reason: effects on non-target insects such as butterflies + transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals Bayer's T25 maize (banned 28/4/2000) - Reason: protection of sensitive areas, lack of monitoring plan and concerns about the herbicide used Monsanto's MON810 maize (banned 10/06/1999) - Reason: Effects on non-target insects
Syngenta's Bt176 maize (banned 07/02/1997) - Reason: Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to humans and animals
Bayer's oilseed rape Topas 19/2 (banned 08/09/1998) - Reason: impact of genetic escape
For Immediate Release