EU looks to tighten GM crop assessment rules
Reuters, 12 November 2010

The EU's food safety watchdog issued new guidelines on Friday for assessing the environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants, as part of a shake-up of the bloc's GM crop approval system.

The guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set out new assessment procedures for biotech companies when submitting GM crops for EU approval, including on possible long-term effects of GM crops and their impacts on insects and other plants.

The new guidelines follow a request from EU governments in 2008 to strengthen EFSA's GM crop assessment procedures, and criticism from countries including France that EFSA had failed to take full account of environmental concerns when approving new crops.

France has refused to discuss European Commission proposals to let member states decide whether to grow or ban GM crops, until the EU's assessment procedures have been strengthened.

A spokesman for the European Commission said the EU's executive would discuss the new guidelines with member states next month, before updating the bloc's environmental risk assessment rules for GM crops.

In December, the Commission is due to publish a report on the socio-economic risks and benefits of GM crops, and new rules on monitoring GM crops are due next year, as part of the wider overhaul of the bloc's approval and assessment procedures.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield and Keiron Henderson)