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3-Gentech §§: Greenpeace: European Commission still reluctant to address the real problems of GMO-releases

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TITLE:  Greenpeace comments on commissions amended proposal on
        revising directive 90/220/EEC
SOURCE: Thomas Schweiger, Greenpeace International, Belgium
DATE:   April 15, 1999




The Commission has failed to substantially amend its proposal to revise directive 90/220/EEC, following the European Parliamentıs First reading in February.

The Commission has rejected most of those amendments proposed by the EP which would constitute a significant improvement of the directive, away from a purely technical law towards a more policy oriented legal instrument, which takes into account the numerous political, social, economic, legal and trade issues as well as only the technical risk assessments based on a very reductionistic scientific approach.

Essential requirements introduced by the Parliament like a liability regime, a socio-economic assessment and export requirements, as well as the possibility of banning certain types of GMOs (such as GMOs containing antibiotic resistance genes), are all designed to raise the safety standards by other than pure scientific review and increase public trust in the authorisation procedures. The fact that the Commission rejects these points show that they have not grasped the depth of the public debate. 

Some of the Commissionıs comments in their explanatory statement are, in fact, an insult to anyone knowledgeable in the field: the requirement for strict liability is rejected with the words "The Commission Š intends to produce a White Paper on environmental liability². However, this White Paper has been promised for more than 10 years now, and any such regime is still many years off. Such an argument cannot be taken serious. The same is true for the rejection of a "prior informed consent² regime (PIC) when exporting GMOs to third countries. The Commission says that such a PIC regime "would prejudge the final text of a Biosafety Protocol². This is inconsistent with the Commissionıs promise to fight for a strong protocol and that it wants the protocol to give protection especially for developing countries: as long as there is no such protocol the only way to deliver these promises is by introducing a PIC requirement into the EUıs own legislation. It is deplorable that the Commi!
ssion so easily forgets its promises.

However, we welcome that the Commission has accepted that public consultations should be made compulsory, even though the wording in the proposal is not yet unambiguous. The Commission has also accepted some of the improvements on definitions and widening the risk assessment. And the Commission keeps the 7-year-time limit for market consent, rather than accept the weaker 12-year limit the EP has proposed.

However, principle problems remain in that both the Commissionıs amended proposal and the EPıs First Reading are based on the concept of "risk categories² and "simplified procedures². Greenpeace cannot accept these concepts which ignore the basic fact that the effect of any GMO on different ecosystems is unforeseeable and unpredictable, but any damage would most probably be irreversible. Greenpeace calls on governments to delete these approaches.

The Council of Environment Ministers is called upon to incorporate the Parliamentıs broader approach to the questions of releasing GMOs into the environment, but keep the Commissionıs 7-year time limit for consents. In addition, the Council must ensure that all GMOs receive the same risk assessment, with no "simplified procedures².

15 April 1999, Thomas Schweiger, EU GMO Advisor, Tel: +32-2-280 14 00 
A detailed analyses by Greenpeace is available upon request.


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