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6-Regulation: Exclusion zone - Mixed messages over GM-free areas

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

TITLE:  Councillors attempt to ban modified crops
SOURCE: Belfast Telegraph, UK
DATE:   Aug 1, 2003

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Councillors attempt to ban modified crops

A CAMPAIGN to ban genetically modified crops from Ireland has been
launched by members of Newry and Mourne District Council. The director of
environmental health at the council, Hugh O'Neill, has written to all the
local authorities north and south of the border seeking their support.
Council members want to prevent GM seed being introduced in Ireland after
the issue was discussed at a council committee meeting on June 30.
Councillor Henry Reilly has been pushing for the controls for several
years and said there had been strong support for his motion. "The
technology is new and some of the scientific papers produced in the issue
have been frightening," he said. "I know the European Union has banned
the use of GM seed."

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Exclusion zone
        Mixed messages over GM-free areas
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by John Vidal
DATE:   Jul 30, 2003

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Exclusion zone
Mixed messages over GM-free areas

Plans by local authorities, towns, national parks and even states to set
up genetically modified free zones to stop the controversial crops being
grown in their areas are in deep confusion following new EU guidelines
announced last week.

Combined with uncertainty over who would be legally liable if genetic
pollution takes place and the World Trade Organisation's pending case
against the EU, it looks increasingly unlikely that any European farmer
will rush to plant the crops, even though it may be legal to do so within

A disparate European movement of regional authorities is rapidly growing
to ban the crops on a local level. In Britain, Devon, Dorset, Lancashire,
Cornwall, Warwickshire and Shropshire, with Cumbria and Somerset joining
last week, have voted to set up zones. Many district and town councils,
including York, South Gloucestershire, Ryedale and South Hams in Devon,
have also voted against the crops.

The Lake District national park has become the first such park to vote
against the crops, and the Welsh assembly has also declared its
opposition. Many other British councils are believed to be considering
whether to follow suit.

Elsewhere in Europe, regions of Italy, France, Germany and Austria have
declared that they will not allow GM crops to be grown in their areas. In
many cases, the regions believe it would make commercial sense to be able
to market their produce as "GM-free".

The English local authorities, which accept that they can only try to
prevent farmers growing GM on the limited farmland that a council owns or
controls, are basing their case on Article 19 of the Deliberate Release
Directive 2001/19/EC. This states that authorities "can request legal
protection of their areas from particular GM crops".

The government, however, argues that they may have misinterpreted the
clause. "The directive requires the authorities to specify conditions of
consent including, conditions for the protection of particular
ecosystems/environments and/or geographical areas," says a notice from
the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
posted on their website.

"To be consistent with the directive, any such request could only be
considered if sound scientific evidence was put forward to demonstrate
that the GM product in question posed a particular risk to the area in
question," it adds.

The inference is that "sound scientific evidence" may not be forthcoming,
but Defra held out the possibility that the crops may not be approved at
a higher level. "In practice, the close environmental/ecological
proximity of different parts of the UK and Northern Europe makes it
likely that a risk posed in one territory would be a risk posed to the
other areas too - and this would make it very unlikely that EU members
would agree to ... consent being granted at all," it said.

Meanwhile, the European commission seems to have scotched the idea of
local authorities imposing any sort of blanket ban. In a recent test
case, the Upper Austria region tried to declare itself a GM-free zone,
but the commission refused approval following a report by the new
European food safety agency that said there was "no new public health or
environment-related evidence that would justify a different approach
being taken in Upper Austria than for the EU in general".

This was supported last week by EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler who
suggested that regional and local authorities would not be able to ban
the use of GM crops within their areas, "unless they can prove it is
impossible for them to be grown without contaminating conventional and
organic crops".

Presenting new guidelines on the co-existence of conventional and GM
crops, he said the objective was to give farmers "maximum freedom of
choice to grow whatever crops were best suited". He added, vaguely, that
farmers could get together in a region to prevent the crops being grown,
but then said: "If any region or member state [seeks to] use the co-
existence rules to ban GMs by the back door, they could end up in the
European courts."

Friends of the Earth (FOE), which is seeking to persuade English local
authorities to declare GM free zones, said last week that the Upper
Austria case and the EU guidelines did not prevent the crops being
banned. A spokeswoman suggested that councils would have to apply for a
ban on individual crops, and that FOE would advise them.


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