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6-Regulation: MEPs urge radical changes to environmental liabilityplan

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

TITLE:  MEPs urge radical changes to liability plan
SOURCE: Environment Daily 1368
DATE:   Jan 22, 2003

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MEPs urge radical changes to liability plan

The European parliament's environment committee has made sweeping and
radical changes to a planned EU liability regime forcing polluters to pay
for damage to the environment. The MEPs' vote today was the first
expression of parliamentary opinion since the European Commission tabled
proposals last year. The final verdict may be very different, however, as
the rival legal affairs committee is leading the assembly's debate.

The environment committee has rewritten virtually all the important
provisions in the Commission's proposal. Its amendments would put the
prime responsibility for clearing up or avoiding imminent damage back on
individual operators, instead of making member state authorities do this
first and claim compensation later. The changes restore elements of a
civil law framework that the Commission originally proposed but later
dropped (ED 22/10/01

There would be mandatory liability insurance for businesses, the
possibility of joint liability for damage, plus the option for non-
governmental organisations to take direct legal action against firms. The
directive's scope would be widened, with nuclear and oil tanker damage
included and GMO-related damage more explicitly covered. The directive
would apply to dangerous activities beyond those covered by existing EU laws.

Also painful for firms is the removal of two legal avenues for them to
argue against being made liable for damage. These are the so-called
compliance with a permit and state-of-the-art defences. They would allow
businesses using modern equipment and operating within pollution limits
to be immune from prosecution for certain damages. The industry lobby is
passionately opposing their exclusion.

"It's one of the best outcomes we could have hoped for," rapporteur
Mihail Papayannakis of the left-wing GUE/NGL party told Environment Daily
after the vote. "My only regret is we didn't have a larger political
majority in favour of the changes."

Though it supported many individual amendments, the centre-right PPE
group opposed the overall package, which was adopted without its backing.
The PPE's stance is important, as the group is the largest in the
parliament and its votes are crucial to pass amendments at the definitive
plenary voting stage.

Before then, Mr Papayannakis must try to get the amendments adopted by
the legal affairs committee, where lead rapporteur Toine Manders is
proposing a fundamentally different approach (ED 29/11/02 http:// Mr
Manders told Environment Daily today that he supported many of the
amendments, though he still wanted to include the permit defence. If the
legal affairs committee rejects today's amendments, Mr Papayannakis must
then canvas for enough MEPs' signatures to have the amendments directly
submitted to the plenary session.

Follow-up: European parliament environment committee
tel: +32 2 284 2111.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Biotech Industry fails to control products
        Illegal GE seeds spread as Biotech Industry fails to control products
SOURCE: GE Free NZ, Press Release
DATE:   Jan 23, 2003

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Biotech Industry fails to control products
Illegal GE seeds spread as Biotech Industry fails to control products

Major companies pushing GE in agriculture are failing to ensure their
products are kept under control. There is an urgent need to make
companies comply with international regulations by making them liable for
damage from their products.

The call for greater international controls follows a Reuters report from
Paraguay that GM soy seeds smuggled across the border with Argentina are
being planted without legal authorisation, or the correct management
controls required to prevent contamination of other stock.

Similar reports have been received from other parts of the world raising
concerns that a strategy of "accidental contamination" is being accepted
by some GM companies as a way of side-stepping regulation and leaving
consumers around the world no choice to avoid GE products.

"New Zealand should be working on the international stage to ensure a
stop to illegal spread of GE seeds," says Jon Carapiet, spokespserson for
GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"Companies must be made liable for the damage they do by allowing illegal
trade in their seed. Monsanto and other companies have gone to great
lengths to prosecute North American farmers like Percy Schmeiser- for
supposedly using their patented seeds. They must also take responsibility
to stop the illegal contamination going on in developing countries."

Recent confirmation of GE contamination in Mexico has sent warning
signals that GE constructed- seeds may be unstable and spreading genetic
components into normal plants. However companies have continued to
promote their GE products despite the clear evidence of negative economic
and environmental impacts.

"Farmers in developing countries are even more vulnerable to industry
marketing tactics that the USDA identified - in the absence of
significant yield or other benefits- as being a key reason for the rapid
spread of GE in the US in the 1990's", says Mr Carapiet.

"Illegal GE seed may be an easy temptation to poor farmers especially if
it is cheap after being dumped by other countries, as has been the case
with GM food aid".

The threat from illegal GE seed contamination is a global one. Recent
contamination found in New Zealand in imported corn resulted in thousands
of dollars in costs. However at the time some biotech-industry
representatives said that the taxpayer should cover the costs, rather
than the companies involved.

"It is unacceptable to force the public- whether it is the poor farmers
in developing countries or the New Zealand taxpayers, to carry the can.
Biotech Companies whose products are used illegally, or spread to cause
irreversible contamination must be held liable for damage. They are the
ones trying to profit from their patents by claiming ownership."