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9-Misc: European Commission launches new pro-GE campaign



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Brussels tells Britain: grow more GM food
SOURCE: The Independent, UK, by Geoffrey Lean
        http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=98153
DATE:   October 7, 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


Brussels tells Britain: grow more GM food

Brussels is mounting a campaign to increase vastly the amount of GM crops 
and foods grown and eaten in Britain and throughout Europe, The Independent 
on Sunday can reveal. The European Commission is calling a meeting next 
week of the 15 EU governments to persuade them to lift a three-year 
moratorium on approving new GM varieties. Documents seen by this newspaper 
show the EC wants them almost to double the amount of approved GM foods and 
more than treble the number of permitted GM crops even before a recently 
agreed directive has been put into force.

Friends of the Earth warned yesterday that the plan, if adopted, would lead 
to "widespread commercial growing" of the crops and "flood" supermarkets 
with the foods. There would be huge resistance from public opinion, which 
brought about the standstill in the first place.

The background documents for the meeting, which will be held on 16 October, 
laments the moratorium, which, it says, has resulted in no new GM products 
being approved since October 1998 and compares Europe unfavourably with the 
US where the crops and foods are ubiquitous. Jointly prepared by the EC's 
environment and health directorates, they say that the standstill has 
"clear and serious implications for European industry, agriculture, 
research and related sectors, and creates legal uncertainties and public 
concerns".

It adds: "In the US and Canada around 50 GMOs [genetically modified 
organisms] have been approved for use in food, whereas in the European 
Union, food products derived from only 13 GMOs are permitted to be placed 
on the market."

The documents acknowledge that the moratorium was introduced because 
governments insisted that "a more stringent and transparent regulatory 
framework" should be put in place before any new products were approved. A 
directive containing the new framework was approved in March, but has not 
yet been put into force in national laws. The commission adopted rules for 
labelling and tracing GM crops and foods in July, but these have not even 
yet been passed by the European Parliament or agreed by EU governments.

But the commission is so keen to press ahead with approvals that it 
suggests that they should now be done on the basis of "voluntary 
commitments" from GM firms, even before any of this comes into effect.

Adrian Bebb, GM food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "The EU is 
trying to rush ahead  under pressure from the United States and the GM 
industry  disregarding concerns about public health and the environment. 
The gentlemen's agreements that it is proposing with industry are likely to 
be worthless, and, in any case, the public will resist having these 
products forced upon them."


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Commission moves to end ban on new GM crops
SOURCE: Reuters, by Robin Pomeroy
DATE:   October 10, 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


EU Commission moves to end ban on new GM crops

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has worked out a compromise to allow EU 
governments concerned about genetically modified (GM) crops to lift a ban 
on new varieties, according to documents obtained by Reuters yesterday. The 
European Union's executive will tell EU member states, that have refused to 
issue marketing permits for GM products for the last three years, that new 
draft rules on GM labelling and traceability are tough enough for them to 
end the de facto ban. No new GM products have been authorised for planting 
or use in the 15-country EU since 1998 when six nations, led by France, 
vowed to block GM permits until regulations were tightened.

Although the main legislation was agreed by governments earlier this year, 
additional regulations on labelling GM products and tracing their origin 
have been drafted by the Commission but not yet agreed by member states. An 
internal Commission working paper suggests that if biotechnology firms 
agree to be legally bound by the new rules, the ban could be lifted. "We 
are not going to ask member states to lift it, but the Commission has been 
consistently saying we have to address the issue of the moratorium and 
cannot shrink from it," Commission spokeswoman Beate Gminder said.


FIRMS MAKE VOLUNTARY COMMITMENTS

The Commission will meet food regulation experts from EU states next 
Tuesday to discuss the de-facto moratorium which has left GMOs, developed 
by life sciences giants such as Novartis and Monsanto, in regulatory limbo. 
The working paper said the makers of 13 GM crops awaiting marketing 
approval had already submitted voluntary commitments to be bound by the new 
legislation.

The idea has angered some anti-GM campaigners. "The public wants informed 
choice and to know that GM organisms have been thoroughly 
tested...'voluntary agreements' with biotech companies (do) not guarantee 
either," Friends of the Earth's Gill Lacroix said.

The EU's refusal to accept many of the hi-tech seed varieties that have 
become commonplace in the United States has angered U.S. farmers and 
threatened to blow up into the next trans-Atlantic trade row, after bananas 
and beef. Farmers in the United States - where there is far less opposition 
to the new technology - have complained the EU is putting unnecessary red 
tape in the way of their exports.

EU Consumer Health Commissioner David Byrne was in Washington yesterday to 
explain to top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Zoellick why the EU's tough new 
rules on labelling GM foods were essential. "There is an irrational fear of 
GM food in the EU," Byrne told a news conference in Washington, according 
to a text released in Brussels. "On the other hand there are irrational 
fears on this side of the Atlantic about how we in Europe are proposing to 
address the issue."

The GM debate has divided European opinion between those that see 
biotechnology as a beneficial science that will bring jobs, wealth and 
abundant food to millions and those that fear they threaten to pollute the 
environment and poison consumers. The Commission has recently launched a 
drive to provide unbiased, science-based information for consumers in what 
it sees a too often emotive debate.




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