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6-Regulation: EU GE crop coexistence rules due for summer



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

TITLE:  EU gene-crop coexistence rules due for summer
SOURCE: Environment Daily 1431
DATE:   Apr 25, 2003

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


EU gene-crop coexistence rules due for summer

The European Commission will produce initial guidelines on how to manage
the introduction of commercial genetically modified crops alongside
conventional cultivation before the summer, agriculture commissioner
Franz Fischler announced yesterday.

The commissioner was addressing a scientific stakeholder conference in
Brussels on ways to ensure the "coexistence" of GM agriculture and both
non-GM and organic farming without cross-contamination between them. The
meeting provided the latest flashpoint in the long-running battle between
supporters and detractors of GM technology.

In a policy paper last month, the Commission advocated a high degree of
subsidiarity over coexistence, with little EU-level involvement in
how member states decide to separate crops (ED 05/03/03). It assumed a
prompt lifting of the informal EU moratorium on new modified crop
approvals and an easing of general consumer hostility towards GM-based foods.

In a final summary of conference recommendations to the Commission,
Joachim Schiemann of the German biological research centre for
agriculture said the guidelines should contain tolerance thresholds for
accidental mixing, be differentiated by crop and allow for flexibility
to accommodate local conditions.

During the conference, GM-sceptic scientists protested vocally and
repeatedly against what they saw as over-optimistic forecasts from most
researchers that modified crops could be successfully isolated from non-
modified counterparts.

A group of five environmental and farming NGOs boycotted the gathering,
saying it failed to address the issue of who should fund coexistence
measures and who should be liable if they fail. Green MEPs said the
Commission was "dodging its political responsibility for
consumers' freedom of choice".

The campaigners say GM farmers should be responsible for shouldering all
coexistence costs since they are newcomers to the market and risk
"polluting" non-GM farming in their district. Biotechnology supporters
argue instead that no form of agriculture should be penalised and that
costs should be shared more evenly.

The latter appear to have Mr Fischler on their side. "Coexistence works
both ways. If a GM crop has specific qualities, admixture with
non-GM crops could have economic consequences for the GM farmer," he said
yesterday.

Daniel Pearsall of the UK's pro-GM trade body Scimac said coexistence
trials had shown the costs were in fact relatively low. Farmers were
already used to separating different non-GM crop types for commercial
reasons and could manage GM separation requirements fairly easily, he
said: "The prospect of neighbour-to-neighbour conflict is vastly exaggerated."

Follow-up:

European Commission http://europa.eu.int/comm/, tel: +32 2 299 1111,
conference information http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/
guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/03/495|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display= and
Fischler speech http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/
guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=SPEECH/03/209|0|RAPID&lg=DE&display=;

Friends of the Earth Europe http://www.foeeurope.org/ and press release
http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2003/GR_24_April_EU_round.htm;

Greens/EFA http://www.greens-efa.org/ and press release http://
www.greens-efa.org/en/press/detail.php?id=1366&lg=en; 

Scimac http://www.scimac.org.uk/ and press release http://
www.ukasta.org.uk/scimac/news/Survey-AuditPressRelease.pdf


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

TITLE:  EU to draft GMO crop mix guidelines in next months
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   Apr 24, 2003

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EU to draft GMO crop mix guidelines in next months 

BRUSSELS, April 24 (Reuters) - European farmers should see their first
official guidance in a few months on how they might grow genetically
modified (GM) crops alongside traditional plants in the future, the EU's
farm chief said on Thursday.

The EU executive, hosting a debate to hear scientific views on the
controversial issue, will present its views on technical measures that
farmers would take to minimise cross-pollination between GM, non-GM and
organic crops.

Although the all-day session has not produced policy making conclusions,
the Commission will use the data given by a wide range of interested
parties -- scientists, the biotech industry, farm and environmental
groups -- as the basis for its proposals.

"It should bring us a step closer to finding a rational and efficient
approach to ensure the co-existence of conventional and organic
agriculture with genetically modified crops in the European Union," said
European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler.

"I hope that the results will also help us to draw up a first set of
guidelines on co-existence before the summer," he said.

EU agriculture ministers would be informed of the debate's progress at
their next meeting in May, he said.

Delegates heard a dozen papers from various EU crop scientists presenting
their studies on co-existence and discussed the technical merits of
differing separation distances between plants, flowering times and risks
of cross-pollination.

The two GM crops where co-existence was particularly addressed were maize
and oilseed rape, as the limited cultivation of these crops is already
approved in the EU.

In Spain, for example, successful commercial cultivation of GM maize over
the past five years proved that co-existence between different agiculture
forms was possible and manageable, according to Swiss crop giant Syngenta AG.

Spain is the only EU state to grow GM maize on a commercial scale, using
the "Bt" variety. Its national area sown to maize, of which more than 80
percent goes into animal feed, is some 500,000 hectares. Of this, around
five percent is GM maize.

"Co-existence between the different types of agriculture has been
successfully achieved in Spain, demonstrated by its five-year experience
with Bt maize cultivation," said Esteban Alcalde, Syngenta's regulatory
manager for the Mediterranean countries.

ECONOMIC LIABILITY

One of the EU's main tasks will be to set rules for economic liability if
there is cross-pollination of neighbouring crops.

Civil legislation on liability for damage to crops, which in this case
would apply if commercial value was reduced due to cross-pollination,
differs widely across the 15-nation bloc.

Some farmers fear that GM varieties will contaminate their traditional
crops and reduce their value. But the reverse might occur, where a GM
crop cross-breeds accidentally with a normal type, thus losing the
specific GM characteristics of the crop.

Fischler takes the view, supported by the biotech industry, that the EU
should not exclude any form of agriculture and farmers should be able to
grow the crops that they choose.

"Co-existence means that no form of agriculture, GMO or non-GMO, should
be excluded in the EU in the future," he said. "Only if farmers are able
to produce the different types of crops in a sustainable way, will
consumers have a real choice."

Green groups were less impressed, saying contamination risks were so high
that strict EU-wide rules had to be in place before GM and non-GM crops
could be grown in close proximity.

"As with so many other previous meetings organised by the European
Commission, this round table seems primarily geared towards paving the
way for genetic engineering in European agriculture," European Parliament
Greens said in a statement.

"It is well established, especially for maize and oilseed rape that if GM
crops are grown on a large scale and without any precautionary measures,
then gene flow will occur between fields, farms and across landscapes,"
it said.