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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
        (COM(2001) 182)
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 
GENET-news email.

Thank you,
Hartmut Meyer


Date: 11/12/2002
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 
(COM(2001) 425).

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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