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6-Regulation: NGOs warn that EU enlargement could weaken GMP policy

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TITLE:  Environmental groups warn that EU enlargement could weaken policy
        on GMOs
SOURCE: ANPED, The Netherlands, Friends of the Earth Europe, Belgium
DATE:   May 27, 2003

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Environmental groups warn that EU enlargement could weaken policy on GMOs

Brussels - 27 May 2003 - A report released today warns that the lack of
implementation of GMO laws in accession countries could result in GMOs
unapproved in the EU, flooding the EU market after accession. The report
entitled: "EU Enlargement - the introduction of GMOs by the back door of
EU accession?" outlines the difficulties accession countries face in
trying to harmonise their laws on GMOs used in food and agriculture, with
the EU patchwork of legislation that is constantly under review, revision
and expansion.

All the accession countries of Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) have now
transposed all but the most recent EU GMO legislation. However, most of
these countries lack any means to implement their laws on GMO
authorisation and labelling. Only the Czech Republic and Hungary have
state laboratories certified to detect GMOs in seed, food and feed. "What
GMOs are circulating on the markets of these countries is a big unknown,
as there are no monitoring programmes to check compliance," said Iza
Kruszewska, of ANPED, The Northern Alliance for Sustainability, an NGO
network that released the report.

"Poland, the largest of the new Member States requires authorisation and
labelling of GMOs, but has no means to enforce these requirements," said
Ela Priwieziencew, from the Polish NGO, Socio-Ecological Institute. "In
early 2002, Poland authorised the import of Monsanto's genetically
engineered soybeans and (Bt) maize for use as animal feed, but to this
day there is no certified laboratory to check what is really being
imported and if it is labelled," she explained. "Already in 2001, we
found a soya product in Poland sold by the Polish company Santé,
containing 4% genetically engineered soybeans - without any authorisation
or labelling. Although we alerted the authorities, nothing was done to
take these products off the market," she added.

Despite their poor implementation, many provisions in the laws of CEE
accession countries address gaps in EU law or go further than EU
legislation. For instance, the GMO laws in Poland and Slovakia provide
for liability. Vera Mora, from the Hungarian NGO ETK gives another
example: "Hungarian legislation on GMOs allows for the creation of
genetic protective zones. We must be allowed to retain this provision to
protect organic and non-GM farmers in Hungary from GMO contamination." 

The Slovene GMO law provides a safeguard clause that allows Slovenia not
to automatically authorise all the GMOs already approved in the EU.
According to Marjana Dermelj, from the Slovene NGO Umanotera: "Where
there are concerns about potential biodiversity or other impacts, the
Environment Ministry can re-assess the risk of releasing the GMO - even
one approved in the old EU15 -  into Slovenia's ecosystems." However,
Dermelj doubts this provision will be applied: "Seven years of legal
vacuum has created a situation where we just don't know the extent of GMO
contamination - both with EU-approved and unapproved GMOs".

The report examines the legal status of GMOs that have been put on the
market in the old EU or on the market of a pre-accession country, at the
moment of accession, when the two markets merge to create a single
market. Accession will create a new situation regarding existing
approvals for GMO releases. Prior approvals - even if they concern the
same GMO variety - should not be automatically considered valid, either
in the "old" EU or in the new member states. "EU authorisations cannot be
extended to the territories of new Member States by default, irrespective
of whether the GMOs were approved in pre-accession countries or not.
Arguably, a new approval procedure must be initiated for all GMOs",
explains Thomas Schweiger, the author of the report.

"The biotech companies with the support of the US government have moved
into Central and Eastern Europe in a big way, seeking to avoid the more
rigorous legislative framework of the EU; most successfully in Poland -
the most US-friendly new EU Member State," said Geert Ritsema of FoE
Europe, co-publisher of the report. "But, we will not allow GMOs to be
introduced by the back door of EU enlargement," concluded Ritsema.

For more information:
Iza Kruszewska, Tel: +44 20 8672 3454; E-mail:
Geert Ritsema, Tel: +32 2 542 0182; Mobile: + 31 6 290 05 908
Vera Mora, Tel: +36 1 411 3510; E-mail:
Marjana Dermelj, Tel: +386 1 439 7100; E-mail:


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