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9-Misc: European Parliament votes on Commissions' Life Science Strategy



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TITLE:  Damiao report: voting results
SOURCE: Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, by Dan Leskien
DATE:   Nov 21, 2002

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Damiao report: voting results

The Nov 21 EP resolution on the Commission's communication on life sciences 
and biotechnology (COM(2002) 27) includes several recommendations which are 
in striking contradiction to previous votes of Parliament on legislative 
reports, such as the SCHEELE report on labelling of GM food/feed and the 
TRAKATELLIS report on traceability of GM products. On the other hand, 
Parliament called for an amendment of the patenting Directive 98/44/EC with 
the aim to exclude genes of human origin from patentability.

Labelling of GM products
Parliament voted in favour of a labelling policy for GMOs and their 
products based on Community rules, the implementation of which can be 
monitored by means of scientific / analytical methods. Products produced 
from GMOs, such as sugar and oil, would be excluded from labelling since 
they cannot be identified as being produced from GMOs due to the absence of 
DNA in such products (225:222:8). This recommendation contradicts the 1st 
reading voting results on the SCHEELE and the TRAKATELLIS report, the 
Commission's proposals and the Council's majority position. The impact of 
the recommendation might therefore be rather low.

De-facto Moratorium
While the amendment on detectabilty was adopted with a narrow majority, 
nearly half of the Members votes in favour of an amendment calling for an 
end of the de-facto moratorium for new GMO marketing applications 
(284:160:7). The amendment reads: "Strongly supports the view that the 
existing de-facto moratorium on GM foos in force since 1998 should cease, 
in order to promote innovation; the current situation has particularly 
harmed SMEs that are main originators of innovation".

Patenting Life Directive
While Parliament recommended to Member States to implement the Patenting 
Life Directive 98/44/EC (358:87:6), a Green/EFA amendment was adopted which 
calls for an amendment of the Directive with the aim to exclude the total 
or partical sequence of a gene isolated from the human body from 
patentability (294:119:3). An amendment calling in addition for an 
exclusion of all life forms from patentability was rejected (186:252:8).

Liability
Parliament did not manage to delete a recommendation of the Industry 
Committee, which states that biotechnological developments should bear no 
risk of liability under the relevant European Union legislation 
(215:215:7). This gives a taste of how controversial the permit defence, 
proposed by the Commission in the context of environmental liability, is.

Co-existence
Amendments, tabled again by the Greens/EFA, calling for measures to ensure 
co-existence of GM farming and conventional/ organic farming were rejected 
(143:295:12).

Freedom of research
The Green/EFA amendment urging Member States and the Commission "to 
reconsider public policies that encourage or even oblige academic 
scientists to collaborate with industry in order to secure adequate funding 
for research since such policies may mean that doubt is cast on the 
independence of scientists employed by academic institutions" was adopted 
(222:212:3). The same amendment was rejected in the vote on the FIORI 
report on human genetics.

Human cloning
Finally, Parliament called for a universal ban of all forms of cloning, 
including therapeutic cloning (271:154:20). While some members will 
celebrate this as a big success, previous votes, especially the vote on the 
FIORI report but also the vote on the 2000 EP resolution on human cloning, 
have shown that Parliament is actually split over the issue of therapeutic 
cloning.

The resolution was adopted with 293 votes in favour, 129 against and 19 
abstentions.

Conclusion
While the parts of the resolution are indeed quite disappointing, one 
should keep in mind that it is a resolution which has no direct or 
immediate impact on any legislation. Moreover, one has to take into account 
that the report was delivered by Parliament's Industry Committee and that 
the rapporteur Damiao is a member of the PSE. Especially the latter fact 
led to all kinds of frictions and conflicts within the PSE which was 
basically split into those who - either out of conviction or out of 
solidarity - went along with Damiao's report, and those who dared to voted 
against at least some of its most worrying recommendations. GUE, parts of 
the liberals, and of the PSE followed more or less the Green/EFA voting 
list.

Dan Leskien
21 November 2002

*****

To download the text of the "European Parliament resolution on the 
Commission communication on Life sciences and biotechnology - A Strategy 
for Europe (COM(2002) 27 - C5-0260/2002 - 2002/2123(COS))" go to:

http://www3.europarl.eu.int/omk/omnsapir.so/calendar?APP=PV2&LANGUE=EN

click on "November 21" and download the pdf-file



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