GENET archive


6-Regulation: European Commission set to rush through GE seedlabelling decision

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

DATE:   2 Sep 2004

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NGOs and organic farmers urge Prodi Commission to avoid disastrous legacy

Brussels, 2 September 2004 - The European Commission is due to adopt on 8
September a proposal for a Decision "establishing minimum thresholds for
adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of genetically modified
seeds in other products". The proposal would allow maize and oilseed rape
seed lots to contain up to 0.3% of genetically modified organisms without
being labelled.

"If this Decision goes ahead, it could spell the end of freedom of choice
for consumers regarding GMOs. It provides no guarantee that farmers and
the food industry will be able to continue offering non-GM products below
the 0.9% labelling threshold for final products. It will also load
serious additional costs on economic operators all along the production
chain," said Eric Gall, Policy Advisor for Greenpeace European Unit.

Marco Schlüter of IFOAM Europe, umbrella organisation for the organic
movement, said: "EU member states, which are supposed to develop national
legislation to protect conventional and organic farming from GMO
contamination, will be left no room for manoeuvre. The next European
Commission will also be deprived the chance to take a more considered
view on the issue of 'co-existence'. It will find its hands tied on a
problem that is crucial for the future of non-GM farming in Europe."

Stefano Masini from the Italian Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI,
Europe's largest farmers' organisation, said: "High quality agriculture,
which is at the core of the new Common Agricultural Policy, will be
damaged if unlabelled contamination of seeds is allowed."

Arnd Spahn from EFFAT (European Federation of Food, Agriculture and
Tourism trade unions) said: "By undermining the GM-free market, the
Commission will destroy businesses and threaten jobs. Our sector has
suffered too much from food scandals in the past to risk going against
consumer opinion."

"There is no need to rush through this decision. The vast majority of
conventional seeds on the EU market today, including imported seeds, are
not contaminated with GMOs. It would be irresponsible for the outgoing
Commission to leave us with a proposal that contradicts its promises to
guarantee 'co-existence' and freedom of choice for consumers," said Donal
Walshe Director of Eurocoop.

The decision to allow contamination of seeds, the first step of the
production chain, will have a major impact on the ability of farmers to
offer non-GM products and will determine the feasibility and the costs of
co-existence measures further down the food production chain. Around 300
genetically modified maize plants and more than 2,000 GM oilseed rape
plants would be allowed to grow on every hectare of supposedly GM-free
fields in Europe without farmers even knowing about it.

The European Parliament (1), NGOs, consumer groups, farmers organisations
and trade unions have all have appealed to the Commission to set the
seeds labelling threshold at the reliable detection level of 0.1%.

1. European Parliament resolution on coexistence between genetically
modified crops and conventional and organic crops (2003/2098(INI)),
adopted 18 December 2003.

Mauro Albrizio, Vice-president, EEB, tel +32 (0)479 940251
Eric Gall, GMO policy advisor, Greenpeace EU Unit, tel +32 (0)2 274 1906,
tel +32 (0)496 161582
Stefano Masini, European office of Confederazione nazionale COLDIRETTI,
tel +32 (0)2 230 9893
Geert Ritsema, GMO co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, tel
+31 6 290 05 908
Marco Schlüter, IFOAM EU Group (organic farmers association), tel +32
(0)2 282 4665
Arnd Spahn, Agricultural Sector Secretary, EFFAT (European Federation of
Food, Agriculture and Tourism trade unions), tel + 32 (0)2 209 62 65
Donal Walshe, EURO COOP Director, tel +32 (0)2 285 00 74 or +32
(0)475 52 76 90

For more information and documents :

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

SOURCE: GM-free Ireland
DATE:   1 Sep 2004

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EU Commissioners split over controversy
Byrne wants 17 seed varieties to be contaminated
Fischler and Wallstrom oppose move
Byrne denies scientific evidence of GM risks accepted by WTO

Outgoing European Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne is
trying to get the EC to include 17 varieties of genetically modified (GM)
agricultural crops on the EU's approved seed catalogue, before he leaves
office in November.

This move is opposed by Agriculture Commissioner Frantz Fischler and
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.

Byrne continues to deny the existence of any scientific evidence of
health and environmental risks of GM food and farming, even though last
week the WTO ruled in favour of the EU in the GM trade dispute filed by
the USA. The WTO agreed to set up a scientific panel to review the
mounting evidence of GM risks, including substantial evidence of GM-
related death and disease in laboratory animals, livestock, and humans.

Byrne is also trying to get the Commission to allow 0.5% of Europe1s
agricultural seeds to be contaminated by GM varieties without labelling.
Under future legislation seed types with traces of authorised GM crops
above the threshold would be labelled.

Under pressure from other governments at emergency meetings in Brussels
this week, a proposal due for decision on September 8 has reduced the
contamination threshold for sugar beet, fodder beet, potato and cotton
seeds from 0.5% to 0.3%. New proposals by Fischler and Wallström now
limit a threshold call to a 0.3 per cent ceiling on maize and oilseed
rape after deep and continuing divisions between EU officials. But David
Byrne and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy are countering the 0.3 per
cent limit with arguments for a 0.5 per cent cap, claiming the 0.5%
threshold would be "too expensive" for global seed conglomerates like

European Greens are backing a 0.1 per cent threshold (the lowest
practical level at which GM contamination of seeds can be detected). The
Danish Minister of Agriculture, Else Mariann Boel, introduced her
country1s demand to establish GMO labelling in seeds at 0.1% in the
Council of Agricultural Ministers. As of November Mrs. Boel will be the
new EU Commissioner for Agriculture.

Divisions run so deep that the proposal for GM contamination due to be
adopted on September 8 may now be postponed.

But if the Commissioners do decide to contaminate all seeds then the
proposal will go to a regulatory committee for members states to vote on,
with a Qualified Majority Vote (QMV) required to reject it . If there is
no QMV in favour or against then it will go to a Council of Ministers
meeting where the same result is likely. If this is the case it will go
back to the Commission to approve it. The last time this happened,
regarding the legalisation of the first GM food and animal feed
(Syngenta's controversial Bt11 maize) for release in the EU last May,
David Byrne persuaded the Commission to legalise it.

GM-free Ireland Network co-ordinator Michael O'Callaghan said "It is
essential that the Irish Government vote for a 0.1% contamination
threshold, or it will be the end of consumer choice in Europe. If Byrne
gets his way, he will go down in history as the man responsible for the
irreversible invasion of Ireland by GM crops, exposing farmers to GM
contamination, GM superweeds, crop failures, increased insurance costs,
liability lawsuits, and loss of market share. This will make non-GM and
organic farming virtually impossible in Ireland and around the EU, and
also threaten the health of consumers and future generations. It is
totally unacceptable that Commissioner Byrne, who is entrusted to protect
our health, continues to deny and suppress the scientific evidence of the
health and environmental risks of GM food and farming."

Environmentalist campaigners brand both moves as "irresponsible" in a
Europe where 23 EU member states have no rules to prevent GM traces
appearing in conventional or organic crops. "It would be a shame if the
outgoing Commission should leave us with this completely irresponsible
legislation," said Greenpeace spokesman Eric Gall.

Irish MEPs should pose hard questions to the new Commissioners with
respect to the Seed thresholds within the present interrogation-phase
(deadline for written questions to the Commissioners is Sept 3, for their
responses Sept 15, hearings in the Committees will then start September 27).

For more information, please visit the GM-free Ireland web site at



- GM Foods Are Inherently Unsafe
- Eating GM Food is Gambling With Your Health.
- Seeds of Deception: exposing exposing corporate and government lies
about the safety of genetically engineered food
- The GM-free Ireland Network is an association of farming organisations,
food producers and distributors, restaurants, chefs, NGOs, journalists
and ordinary people collaborating to keep the whole island of Ireland1s
GM-free - for the benefit of farmers, consumers and future generations.
Members include the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish
Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the Restaurants Association of
Ireland, Irish Farmers Markets, the Irish Association of Health Stores,
Friends of the Earth, Irish Seed Savers Association, the Irish Doctors
Environmental Association, Euro-Toques Ireland / the European Commission
of Chefs, Slow Food Ireland, Food and Wine magazine, the Food Writers
Guild, Sustainable Ireland, and many farmers and food producers.

- Last available proposal of the Commission:

- Open letter of 60 farmers organisations letter to Fischler & Prodi:

- Open Letter of EFFAT, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and
Tourism Trade Unions

- Ten Arguments for clean Seeds

- Documentation of the Economic and Social Affairs Committee hearing on
co-existence in Brussels, July

- GM-free Ireland Network:

Michael O1Callaghan
Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network
Chairman, Global Vision Consulting Ltd
Tel: + 353 (0)404 43 885
Mobile: + 353 (0)87 799 4761


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

P: +49-531-5168746
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