6-Regulation: Council of European Environment ministers agree on new GMO legislation
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TITLE: ENVI Council reaches political agreement on traceability and
(operator-to-operator) labelling of GMOs, GM food/feed
SOURCE: Dan Leskien (The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament)
DATE: Dec 11, 2002
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Dear GENET-news readers,
please ignore a previous similar message, sent on GENET-news under the same
title on 22 December 2002. This is a corrected version of the previous
From: Dan Leskien
Re: ENVI Council reaches political agreement on traceability and (operator-
to- operator) labelling of GMOs, GM food/feed (COM(2001) 182)
SUMMARY On 9 December 2002, the ENVI Council reached political agreement on
traceability of GMOs, GM food/ feed.
With this political agreement, the Danish Presidency reached its ambitious
goal to come to a political agreement with regard to all pending
legislative dossiers dealing with GMOs. On 17 October, the ENVI Council had
reached political agreement on the transboundary movements of GMOs
(COM(2002) 85); on 28 November 2002, the AGRI Council had reached agreement
with regard to the authorisation and consumer labelling of GM food and feed
Compared to the original Commission proposals, the Council has clearly
taken a more precautionary and more restrictive approach. In fact, in all
three cases the Council took a middle position between the Commission and
While the new legislation will include major improvements, it fails to
address crucial issues.
The improvements include: labelling, based on the use of GMOs irrespective
of whether GM products may be detected in the final product; mandatory
labelling of GM feed, whether it contains processed or alive GMOs;
traceability of all GMOs, GM food & feed; export of GMOs to Non-Member
States will be regulated; Member States have to prevent unintentional
transboundary movements of GMOs to Non-Member-States;
Remaining gaps and shortcomings include: lack of adequete liability rules
for GMO-caused dammage (including economic dammage caused through 'GM
contamination') lack of mandatory co-existence / anti-contamination
measures; 0.5% threshold for unauthorised GMOs (which, however, expires
after three years); relatively high labelling threshold of 0.9% below which
products do not have to be labelled if the presence of the GMO was
accidental/ technically unavoidable; lack of regulations addressing the
contained use of GMOs (other than genetically modified micro-organisms
which are covered by Directive 90/219/EEC), e.g. GM fish in fish farms;
The moratorium which is in place since October 1998 when the last GMO was
approved for the placing on the market should not be lifted, before the
gaps and shortcomings mentioned have been addressed.
1. The proposed traceability scheme
The traceability regulation will establishe a harmonized documentation
system for trade with products, containing or consisting of GMOs. It will
in addition also apply to processed GMO, provided the products are destined
to be used as food or feed.
The traceability scheme shall facilitate accurate labelling, monitoring and
withdrawal of wrongful products.
The traceability scheme is especially important to ensure that food/feed
products, produced from GMOs, in particular those products which do not
contain any DNA or protein and which therefore cannot be identified as
being derived from GMOs, will be truthfully labelled. For this purpose, the
traceability regulation requires operators to pass on information ("unique
identification codes") regarding the GMOs contained in their products to
other operators. While the GM food/feed regulation regulates final consumer
labelling, the traceability regulation is some form of operator-operator
labelling and information scheme.
2. The Council political agreement
Most controversial in the ENVI Council was whether in the case of GMOs to
be used as food, feed or for processing (GMOs FFP), an operators would only
have to indicate the GMOs their products "may contain", as the Commission
had proposed or whether they would have to indicate exactly the GMOs which
are present in their products. The Commission's proposal would have left
operators with the option to label every product with a list of all GMOs,
authorised in the European Union.
The ENVI Council rejected the Commission's 'shopping-list' approach and
followed the European Parilament by requiring operators to specify also in
the case of GMOs FFP the GMOs actually present in their products.
This is how it is supposed to work: At the first stage (Art. 4.1) of the
placing on the market of a product containing or consisting of GMOs, the
operator shall ensure that the operator receiving the product receives the
information that the product contains or consists of GMOs and the unique
identification codes assigned to each GMO which is present in the product.
The receiving operator is then obliged to pass on exactly this information
to her/his clients when s/he sells products for the production of which GMO
product was used.
It may happen, that a raw product (e.g. soy beans) at the first stage of
its placing on the market contains, for example, four different types of
GMOs, while in some of the products produced from this product (e.g. tofu)
only the DNA of three GMO types can be detected. In this case the question
may arise whether the producer of these latter products (the tofu) has to
indicate that only three GMO-types have been used for the production. The
answer is NO. Otherwise producers would have to test each and every single
product before they could sell it. Thus, at all subsequent stages of the
placing on the market, operators will only transmit the information
provided by the 1st operator (Art. 4.2).
The difference between the Cion and the Council position: While the Cion
wanted to give operators in the case of GMOs FFP the possibility to simply
provide at the first stage of the placing on the market a list of GMOs
their products "may contain", the Council requires the operator to provide
at the first stage of the placing on the market a list of GMOs which are
actually present in the product. This has the advantage that subsequent
operators are at least informed about the GMOs which are not present in a
product and in addition about those GMOs which may be present.
3. GM contamination
Parliament adopted in the first reading of the traceability and of the GM
food/feed regulation several amendments dealing with GM contamination. The
amendments would require producers and users of GM products to take
effective measures to prevent GM contamination of other products. The
Council and the Commission rejected these amendments.
Council also rejected the recital 14, proposed by B, which stated the
Member States are free to take appropriate measures to ensure co-existence
and consumer choice.
4. Traceability threshold for seeds
The Council agreed, as suggested by Parliament, that the same thresholds
should apply for traceability, as they apply for labelling. This means that
products which do not have to be labelled under the GM food/feed
regulation, also do have to be traceable.
Unfortunately, the Council also accepted that the traceability threshold
for non-food/feed GMOs (such as seeds) should be set in line with the (not
yet specified) labelling threshold foreseen in Art. 21 (2) of the GMO
release Directive (2001/18/EC) or foreseen "in other specific community
legislation". This latter phrase should be deleted in 2nd reading since GM
labelling thresholds should only be set under 2001/18/EC. They should, in
particular, not be set under the seeds legislation.
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