EU to overhaul GM crop approval system
2.EXCLUSIVE - EU to overhaul GM crop approval system - sources
1.Europe to change rules on growing genetically modified crops
Friends of the Earth Europe, 4 June 2010
*Friends of the Earth Europe calls for an immediate moratorium
Brussels New proposals that would allow European countries to ban genetically modified (GM) crops are cautiously welcomed by Friends of the Earth Europe. However, to ensure GM-free food and farming, the proposals from the European Commission must be strengthened to prevent cross-contamination and ensure the biotech industry pays for any damage resulting from GM cultivation.
The European Commission has, in the past days, started formal internal procedures to change European laws for growing GM crops (1). An earlier impact assessment concluded that the proposals would lead to a “negative impact for non-GM farmers”. (2)
Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “This is a welcome opportunity for countries in Europe to ban genetically modified crops but it could open the door for pro-GM member states to cultivate GM crops. The public and environment will only be protected if the proposal is backed up by Europe-wide measures to prevent our food and feed from being contaminated. Until safeguards are in place we need an immediate ban on growing genetically modified crops.”
The European Commission is proposing:
- To immediately relax official guidelines on co-existence (measures member states can take to stop contamination) to allow member states more autonomy to prevent GM cultivation on their territory.
- To change European law (Directive 2001/18) to allow member states full flexibility to ban GM crops.
Adrian Bebb continued: “The European public has opposed GM foods for over a decade. The European Union must agree to rules that protect the public’s right to GM free food and GM free countryside. Friends of the Earth Europe calls on politicians to strengthen European law to put people and planet before the profits of the biotech industry.”
Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for:
- Mandatory measures to stop contamination from GM crops;
- Strict legal liability for the biotech industry;
- Social and economic impacts on farmers to be taken into account;
- Zero threshold against contamination of seeds;
- Full implementation of member states’ demands to improve the safety assessments for GM crops
For more information please contact:
Sam Fleet, communications officer for Friends of the Earth Europe,
2.EXCLUSIVE-EU to overhaul GM crop approval system - sources
Reuters News, 4 June 2010
* EU exec tables plan to unblock GM approvals in Europe
* Countries to be free to choose whether to grow or ban GM
* Proposals likely to spark sharp growth in EU plantings
* New rules expected in place by mid-July, but face hurdles
By Charlie Dunmore and Julien Toyer
BRUSSELS, June 4 (Reuters) - The European Union is to radically overhaul its approval system for genetically modified (GM) crops from next month, opening the way to large-scale GM cultivation in Europe, EU sources said on Friday.
With most Europeans showing no appetite for GM produce in food, EU politicians have approved just two varieties for growing in 12 years, compared to more than 150 worldwide.
Under proposals due to be adopted on 13 July, the EU executive Commission will be given greater freedom to approve new GM varieties for cultivation in return for letting EU governments decide whether or not to grow them.
"The idea is to maintain an EU-level approval system, but then leave member states totally free to decide whether or not they want to grow," an EU source familiar with the proposals told Reuters.
Commercial GM planting in Europe last year covered less than 100,000 hectares, mostly in Spain, compared to 134 million hectares globally.
The plan would allow large-scale commercial planting in pro-GM countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, while legally endorsing existing GM bans in countries including Italy, Austria, and Hungary.
But critics say the proposals could spark internal market disputes within Europe, and leave the EU open to legal challenges in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which largely backed a U.S. complaint in 2006 that the EU's GM policy was unscientific.
The new rules were drawn up by Maltese Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner John Dalli, who caused controversy in March by approving cultivation of a GM potato used in starch production.
The plans are based on a joint Austrian Dutch proposal, which European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pledged to implement last year as part of his bid for reappointment.
The Commission proposal has two main elements, several sources familiar with the details confirmed.
The first is a "fast-track" approach, which will see the Commission issue new guidelines to member states on the "coexistence" of GM and non-GM cultivation.
These would allow countries to set their own technical standards for GM farming, for example requiring buffer zones of 10 km (6.2 miles) between GM and non-GM fields, which would in effect rule out GM cultivation in entire regions and countries.
The second is a "restricted amendment" to current EU legislation on the release of GM organisms in the environment, that would allow countries to ban GM cultivation altogether for reasons other than safety or coexistence grounds.
The legislative change would have to be agreed by a qualified majority of EU governments and the European Parliament under the EU's system of weighted voting.
If the debate cannot be limited to this one change alone as the Commission hopes, it could mean two or more years of complex political argument before a decision is reached.
But with the possibility of cultivation bans already in place because of the guidelines, the EU executive is confident it can win majority support, an EU source said.
When contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for Dalli refused to confirm the details of the plan, but said the commissioner had previously given his backing to the idea and promised to table proposals before the summer.
"Above all he wants to ensure that market operators have a clear legal base," the spokesman said.
OPPONENTS SHARE CONCERNS
"These proposals are legally questionable, contrary to the single market and will sow deep division between the member states," said an industry source who is familiar with the plan but asked not to be named.
The move could open new European markets for biotech companies such as Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, and Syngenta.
Environmental campaigners who were briefed on the proposal by the Commission on Thursday said it confirmed Barroso's intention to promote GM cultivation in Europe.
"Although we welcome the move to allow countries to ban GM crops, it is being pushed to unblock the approvals process and allow more GM crops to be grown," said Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
"The public and environment will only be protected if the Commission's proposal is backed up by Europe-wide measures to prevent our food and feed from being contaminated. Until then we need an immediate ban on growing GM crops," he added. (Editing by James Jukwey)