EU says GMO "ban" to stay until at least mid-2001
EU: December 20, 2000

BRUSSELS - The European Union will not lift an effective ban on new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until well into next year at the earliest, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said on Tuesday.

The 15-nation EU agreed a new law last week on the procedure for allowing new GMOs to be sold, but Wallstrom said national governments wanted to wait for further legal proposals before even thinking about lifting an 18 month-old moratorium.

"We don't expect member states to take a position on the possible ending of the moratorium before all these elements are on the table," said Wallstrom, who had previously indicated the de facto ban would be lifted by the end of this year.

EU governments said in June 1999 they would not allow any new GMOs to go on sale before EU rules, dating from 1990, were updated to satisfy public concerns about possible dangers to human health and the environment.

The EU has not authorised any new GMOs since mid-1998, much to the annoyance of the United States which is prevented from exporting such products to the EU.

In July, Wallstrom said the moratorium was illegal and that she would push governments to restart authorising GMOs as soon as they had agreed on the principles of the new rules.

At the demand of national governments, the Commission is drafting additional legislation - on labelling and tracing the supply of GMOs and on making companies liable for any damage their products might cause to the environment - which should be published in the coming months.