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7-Misc: Euro-MP calls for legal liability over GMOs

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TITLE:  Euro-MP calls for legal liability over GMOs
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   June 23, 1999

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Euro-MP calls for legal liability over GMOs

BRUSSELS, June 23 (Reuters) - Biotechnology companies should be
made legally responsible for any problems caused by products they
put on the market, a leading member of the European Parliament
said on Wednesday. British Socialist deputy David Bowe said a
revised European Union law on approving genetically modified
crops or foods must include provisions on legal liability. Bowe
is responsible for drawing up the assembly's position on the law,
which may be approved later this week by EU environment
ministers. "The public want to see businesses required to take
the protection of health and the environment seriously," Bowe
told a two-day Brussels conference on food safety and food law.
"Few things will concentrate a company's mind more than the
knowledge that they will be held legally responsible for any
problems," Bowe said. 

The EU is trying to revamp its rules on approving new GMOs amid
growing consumer concern about the environment and food safety
following the mad cow disease scare and the recent dioxin-in-food
scandal in Belgium. With all applications to market GMOs on hold,
there is a de facto moratorium in the EU and pressure is
increasing from the United States for Europe to open its market
to crops grown by American farmers and developed by U.S. life
sciences companies. Bowe rejected a German proposal for GMO
approvals to be handled by a central and independent agency,
saying it would not be appropriate in the current climate of
public distrust. "Gaining public acceptance for authorisations is
hard enough at the moment," Bowe said. "Speaking as a politician,
I am not convinced."

Bowe accused biotechnology companies of having an "arrogant and
patronising attitude," by trying to bludgeon consumers into
accepting the new technology. Environment ministers -- meeting in
Luxembourg on Thursday and Friday -- could give their initial
approval to the revised law, which should allow the parliament to
give it a second reading later this year.

-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
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