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2-Plants: EC recommendations on co-existence

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

TITLE:  GMOs: Commission publishes recommendations to ensure co-existence
        of GM and non-GM crops
SOURCE: European Commission, Press Release IP/03/1096
DATE:   Jul 23, 2003

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GMOs: Commission publishes recommendations to ensure co-existence of GM
and non-GM crops

DN: IP/03/1096
Date: 23/07/2003


Brusels, 23 July 2003

GMOs: Commission publishes recommendations to ensure co-existence of GM
and non-GM crops

Today the European Commission published guidelines for the development of
strategies and best practices to ensure the co-existence of genetically
modified (GM) crops with conventional and organic farming. They are
intended to help Member States to develop workable measures for co-
existence in conformity with EU legislation. The guidelines set out the
general principles and the technical and procedural aspects to be taken
into account, and provide a list of possible actions that could be
tailored for implementation at national or regional or local level.

Commenting on the guidelines, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for
Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said: "We want to ensure
that farmers are able to cultivate the types of agricultural crops they
choose be it GM crops, conventional or organic crops. This is why we need
measures to ensure their co-existence. What is an efficient and cost-
effective best practice is specific to national and regional or local
conditions. This makes an EU-wide "one-size-fits-all" approach
unworkable. The recommendations are based on the latest available
research results, and provide a sound basis on which Member States should
build their approaches."

Under the new rules on GMOs as adopted yesterday by the Council (see IP/
03/1056) Member States have the possibility to take appropriate measures
to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products, while the
Commission is asked to develop guidelines on the co-existence of
genetically modified, conventional and organic crops.

The guidelines on co-existence complement the comprehensive regulatory
framework that the European Union has set up for dealing with GMOs and
food and feed produced from such organism. The EU will pursue its
examination of new GMOs which in accordance with EU law can only be
authorised for cultivation and/or marketing in the EU if they present no
risk for human health or the environment. A number of GMOs were and are
notified for authorisation and are being processed by the Commission and
the Member States.

The Commission will carefully monitor the respect of EU legislation on
GMOs. It will address any possible problem arising from diverging
measures at Member State level that would not comply with EU legislation.

General principles of the Guidelines

Building on experience with existing segregation practices (e.g. in
certified seed production), approaches to co-existence need to be
developed in a transparent way, based on scientific evidence and in co-
operation with all concerned. They should ensure an equitable balance
between the interests of farmers of all production types. National
strategies and best practices should refer to the legal labelling
thresholds and purity standards for GM food, feed and seed.

Measures should be efficient and cost-effective, without going beyond
what is necessary to comply with EU threshold levels for GMO labelling.
They should be specific to different types of crop, since the probability
of admixture varies greatly from one crop to another; while for some
crops the probability is high (e.g. oil seed rape) for others the
probability is fairly low (e.g. potatoes). In addition, local and
regional aspects should be fully taken into account.

The need for strategies that ensure a fair balance between the interests
of farmers of all types of production is underlined. Farmers should be
able to choose the production type they prefer, without imposing the
necessity to change already-established production patterns in the
neighbourhood. As a general principle, during the phase of introduction
of a new production type in a region, farmers who introduce the new
production type should bear the responsibility of implementing the
actions necessary to limit admixture. Finally, continuous monitoring and
evaluation and the timely sharing of best practices are indicated as
imperatives for improving measures over time.

Indicative catalogue of measures

The non-exhaustive list included in the guidelines indicates measures
that Member States could adapt or use in various combinations and that
become part of national co-existence strategies and best practices. They
could include:
- on-farm measures (such as isolation distances, buffer zones, pollen
barriers such as hedgerows),
- co-operation between neighbouring farms (such as information about
sowing plans, use of crop varieties with differing flowering time),
- monitoring and notification schemes,
- training for farmers,
- exchange of information,
- advisory services.

The appropriate scale of measures for co-existence

Priority should be given to management measures applicable on farm level
and in close co-operation with neighbouring farms depending on crop and
product type (e.g. seed versus crop production). Measure of a regional
dimension could be considered if they are proportioned and if sufficient
levels of purity cannot be achieved by other means.

Why should Member States decide on co-existence measures and not the EU?

Following the adoption of EU legislation on traceability and labelling
and GM food and feed Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into
the environment of GMOs has been amended to allow for the possibility of
measures for co-existence at Member State level. Many of the factors that
determine what is efficient and cost-effective best practice are specific
to national and regional characteristics and farming practices, which
vary greatly from one Member State to another and within national
territories themselves. A "one-size-fits-all" approach is therefore not


Concerning the question of liability in the event of economic damage
resulting from admixture, Member States are advised to examine their
civil liability laws to find out whether existing national laws offer
sufficient and equal possibilities in this regard. The type of approach
to co-existence adopted by Member States may have an impact on the
application of national liability rules. Farmers, seed suppliers and
other operators should be fully informed about the liability criteria
that apply in their country in the case of damage caused by admixture. In
this context, Member States may also want to explore the feasibility and
usefulness of adapting existing insurance schemes, or setting up new schemes.

In two years time the Commission will report to the Council and the
European Parliament about experiences gained in the Member States and on
the possible need for further steps to take.

What is co-existence?

The issue of co-existence refers to the ability of farmers to provide
consumers with a choice between conventional, organic and GM products
that comply with European labelling and purity standards. Co-existence is
not about environmental or health risks because only GM crops that have
been authorised as safe for the environment and for human health can be
cultivated in the EU. Since different types of agricultural production
are not naturally separated, suitable measures during cultivation,
harvest, transport, storage and processing are needed in order to manage
the possible accidental mixing (admixture) of GM and non-GM crops
resulting from seed impurities, cross-pollination, volunteers(1) and
harvesting-storage practices. Co-existence is concerned with the
potential economic loss through the admixture of GM and non-GM crops
which could lower their value, with identifying workable management
measures to minimise admixture, and with the cost of these measures.

(1)seeds remaining in the soil after harvest and producing new plants in
successive years

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

TITLE:  EU Backs Farmers Who Want to Grow GMO Crops
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   Jul 24, 2003

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EU Backs Farmers Who Want to Grow GMO Crops

BRUSSELS - Local or national governments cannot ban farmers from planting
genetically modified crops, the European Commission said yesterday,
supporting those farmers who want to embrace the controversial technology.

 The Commission's new guidelines -- part of a push to end the five-year
moratorium on GMO crops that is under attack from the United States --
spell out how crops produced from genetically modified organisms can be
grown alongside organic and conventional crops within the European Union.

"It is not possible for regions or national governments to introduce GMO-
free zones," European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told a news conference.

But while authorities cannot prohibit farmers from planting GMO crops,
regional groups of farmers were free to get together and decide against
planting GMO crops, he said.

Authorities cannot ban farmers from using GMO crops as such a move would
violate EU law giving farmers the freedom to choose.

However, Fischler said there could be an opt-out in cases where it was
impossible to limit contamination of non-GM crops due to the variety of
biotech crop being sown and the lay-out of fields.

"(In Austria) there is strip farming where fields are terribly can't have (GM) maize on a little strip co-existing with
other crops on the side."

The European Environmental Bureau, a non-governmental lobby group, called
on EU governments to create GMO-free zones.

"The right to eat GM-free food will be severely compromised if GM crops
are grown on a large scale," EEB head Mauro Albrizio said in a statement.


The provincial government of Upper Austria has banned genetically
modified organisms but the European Food Safety Authority recently said
there was no justification.

Farmers in that region may now be able to take action.

"In case you are from Upper Austria you can go to the European Court and
say you disapprove of what Upper Austria is doing and feel your rights
have been violated," Fischler said.

The Commission will take a final decision on the Austrian case in
September, when EU farm ministers will discuss the Commission's new
guidelines, which are not legally binding.

The co-existence debate is seen by many in the biotech industry as
another way for GMO-skeptical countries to postpone lifting the five-year
ban on most GMO crops.

Biotechnology lobby Europabio welcomed the guidelines.

"They set out the best practices member states should follow when growing
GM crops," said a spokeswoman. "We now want the Commission to propose the
GMO content in seeds."

The Commission's move follows the adoption of rules to label all GMO food
and feedmeal, giving consumers the choice between GMO and non-GMO
products on supermarket shelves.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, European Environmental Bureau
        Press Release
DATE:   Jul 23, 2003

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Brussels, 23 July. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the European
Environmental Bureau today condemned the European Commission' s
recommendation on co-existence between genetically modified (GM) and non-
GM crops.

The Commission says that GM contamination of organic crops should be
allowed. It says that new GM labelling rules - which will require
products to carry a label if they contain an ingredient containing 0.9
per cent or more GM material to be labelled - should apply to "
conventional and organic farming alike " [1]. The environmental NGOs are
urging member states to refuse to allow this to happen.

GM-free areas

But the Commission gave a boost to Friends of the Earth's GM-free Britain
campaign by recommending that "measures of a regional dimension could be
considered " to prevent GM contamination. This opens the door to regional
bans on GM crops.

In October last year Friends of the Earth launched its GM-free Britain
([1]) campaign, to persuade local authorities to
take action on GM food and crops. Earlier today (Wednesday) Somerset
County Council voted to go GM-free, and Cumbria County Council will vote
in the issue tomorrow. The Welsh National Assembly, Devon, Dorset,
Lancashire, Cornwall, Warwickshire, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire and
the Lake District National Park have already backed GM-free policies.

European Commission's Recommendation

The European Commission's recommendation (which has yet to be published)
will be discussed by the Commission later today. It will not be legally
binding. EU member states therefore have the right to take more far
reaching measures to protect organic and conventional crops from GM
contamination. Amendments, adopted by the European Environment Ministers
yesterday, say that "member states may take measures to avoid the
unintended presence of GM 's in other products ". The amendments also say
that responsibility for avoiding genetic pollution should lie with the GM

Friends of the Earth Europe's GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"Moves to allow organic crops to be contaminated with GM pollution are
totally unacceptable, and could lead to the death of organic food and
farming. Member States should reject this recommendation and bring in
tough legislation to prevent genetic contamination and ensures real
consumer choice."

"Local authorities across the UK have taken steps to protect their food,
farming and environment by introducing GM-free policies. The Commission's
call for regional measures to stop GM pollution is a welcome boost, and
should encourage even more councils to take action."

There is widespread scientific agreement that commercially grown GM crops
will contaminate conventional and organic farms over an extensive area.
Therefore the green NGO's are urging Member States to take appropriate
measures, such as creating GMO free zones and the adoption of legislation
that establishes zero tolerance towards the GM contamination of seeds.

Eric Gall from Greenpeace said

"Member states should make clear in their national legislation that GM
producers are the ones responsible for avoiding GMO's in food, feed and
especially seeds. According to the polluter pays principle GM producers
should also bear the cost of anti-contamination measures" .

Mauro Albrizio from the European Environmental Bureau added:

"The right to eat GM-free food will be severely compromised if GM crops
are grown on a large scale. The Commission must accept that no one wants
GM foods and that public authorities have every right to protect their
consumers and environment."


[1] Draft Commission recommendation on guidelines for the development of
national strategies and best practices to ensure the co-existence of
genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming.

[2] A number of local authorities (and the Welsh National Assembly) have
already endorsed GM-free policies. These include taking action to stop
tenant farmers growing GM crops, and banning GM food from local food
services such as school meals and residential homes. They can also write
to the Government and Brussels applying, under new European laws, to be
excluded from growing certain GM crops.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)