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6-Regulation: EU Member States, Commission and Parliament fight about GMO moratorium

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  A) Genetic engineering: Majority of member states back Italy’s stand
           on transgenic maize
        B) MEP welcomes bid to end Europe's GMO impasse
SOURCE: A) Friends of the Earth Europe, Belgium, European Report
        B) ENDS Daily, UK
DATE:   A) October 25, 2000
        B) October 26, 2000

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Genetic engineering: Majority of member states back Italy’s stand on 
transgenic maize

The European Union's Standing Committee on Food broke up on 19 October 
without reaching agreement on a response to the decision by Italy to 
suspend the marketing of processed products manufactured using four 
varieties of genetically-modified maize. Italy took the decision on 4 
August - on public health grounds - appealing to the safety clause 
contained in the Regulation on novel foods and food ingredients (No. 258/
97). As a result of the Standing Committee's indecision, the Commission has 
been forced to withdraw its proposal to order Italy to lift its ban, since 
it has not secured backing for its proposal from a qualified majority of 
Member States. The products concerned are oils drawn from three varieties 
of genetically-modified rape and products derived from four varieties of 
transgenic maize.

According to the environmental organisation Greenpeace, Germany, Denmark, 
Greece and Austria lent their support to Italy during a vote in the 
Standing Committee on Food, whilst Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Sweden 
abstained. Only the United Kingdom, Portugal, Finland, Spain and Ireland 
backed the Commission. In a statement published after its meeting, the 
Standing Committee on Food indicates, without entering into the specific 
details of the Italian case, that it would be more appropriate to examine 
the text in the context of the strategy proposed in July by David Byrne the 
Commissioner for Consumer Health and Protection, and Environment 
Commissioner Margot Wallstrim, in order to restore public confidence in the 
authorisation procedure for genetically -modified organisms (see European 
Report No. 2517 for further details). This strategy proposes to shortly 
resume the procedure, taking account of public fears and the legal 
uncertainties encountered by scientists and GMO industries. The Commission 
has indicated that it will invite Member States' experts to consider this 
strategy in November and will return thereafter to the Italian case.

On 4 August 2000 Italy decided to suspend marketing in the country of four 
varieties of genetically-modified maize. The marketing of these products 
had previously been authorised in the European Union by the European 
Commission according to the principle of "substantial equivalence" (with 
products not produced using GMOs) , which requires no assessment of risk to 
consumers. The Italian Government invoked the safety clause contained in 
Article 12 of the Regulation on novel foods and food ingredients (258/97/

This article stipulates that if on the basis of new information or a 
reappraisal of existing information, a Member State has grounds for 
regarding the use of a food or food ingredient consistent with the Novel 
Foods Regulation as presenting a risk to human health or the environment, 
that Member State can temporarily restrict or suspend use of the food or 
ingredient at issue within its territory.

It should immediately inform the European Commission and the other Member 
States, outlining the grounds for its decision. Regulation 258/97 then 
requires the Commission, through the Standing Committee on Foods (made up 
of representatives of the 15 EU Member States), to examine the 
justification advanced by the Member State.— The four varieties of 
genetically-modified maize covered by the Italian ban are Bt11 (containing 
the thuringiensis bacillus (Bt) to combat the common corn borer) produced 
by the Swiss Novartis group, Mon810 (Maisgard) produced by Monsanto, Mon8O9 
produced by the American Pioneer group and T25 produced by Agrevo. Mon810 
has for several years been authorised for use in animal feed in the United 
States, Canada, Japan, Argentina and the European Union. However, its use 
for seed remains prohibited in the European Union.


B) MEP welcomes bid to end Europe's GMO impasse

The European Parliament's rapporteur on revision of the EU directive on 
"deliberate release" of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has welcomed 
European Commission moves to end the de facto moratorium on new product 
approvals in place since June 1999.

The initiative from commissioners Margot Wallström and David Byrne aims at 
getting biotechnology firms to comply voluntarily with tough new 
authorisation procedures immediately the directive has been agreed at EU 
level and legal implementation by member states. It also envisages yet-to-
be proposed supplementary rules on GMO labelling and traceability (ENDS 
Daily 13 July).

UK socialist MEP David Bowe of the parliament's environment committee has 
led the assembly's negotiations on the directive's revision. He and 
parliamentary colleagues will soon sit down with government representatives 
to thrash out remaining differences over its wording. Although this process 
should end within eight weeks, EU member states will not be required to 
transpose the new rules into national law for at least another year.

"Any rapporteur has to be happy to see [the provisions of his] law go into 
force as soon as possible," he told ENDS Daily after the environment and 
consumer affairs commissioners presented their plans to the committee in 
Strasbourg this week. "The old law is not sufficient. If there's an option 
for getting things done quicker, we should take it," he said.

For this to happen, Mr Bowe said, the Commission needed to present the 
supplementary labelling and traceability proposals quickly. It originally 
promised them by the autumn but the commissioners told MEPs this week that 
they would now be ready "in the coming months".

"The Commission will have to pick itself up and get a move on," Mr Bowe 
said, calling for these extra proposals to enter into law "within a matter 
of months." The only way this could happen would be for EU governments to 
adopt them in the form of an EU regulation, he said.

European Parliament environment committee
tel: +32 2 284 2111. 

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