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6-Regulation: European Commission considers GE crop coexistence legislation as too early



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

TITLE:  Commission reports on national measures to ensure co-existence of
        genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming
SOURCE: European Commission, Press Release IP/06/293
        http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/
06/293&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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Commission reports on national measures to ensure co-existence of
genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming

The development of EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically
modified crops with conventional and organic farming does not appear
justified at this time, in view of the EU's limited experience with the
cultivation of GM crops and the need to conclude the process of
introducing national measures. This is the main conclusion of a new
report from the European Commission, published today. However, before any
decision is taken, the Commission will engage in an in-depth consultative
process with stakeholders. A conference in Vienna on 5-6 April will
provide an ideal occasion for such a discussion. Co-existence measures
are the subject of a Commission Recommendation from July 2003. They are
designed to ensure that GM crops can be grown along with non-GM crops
without negative economic consequences caused by accidental mixing of the
two. The Commission proposes to work jointly with the Member States and
stakeholders on the development of recommendations for crop-specific
technical segregation measures.

"The development of efficient and cost-effective strategies to ensure co-
existence is vital to ensure a practical choice between GM and non-GM
produce for farmers and consumers," said Mariann Fischer Boel,
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "This is not a
question of health or environmental protection, because no GMOs are
allowed on the EU market unless they have been proved to be completely
safe. To ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying the EU
has developed an advanced labelling and traceability system for GMOs.
Segregation measures must be in place to ensure that accidental traces of
GMOs in conventional or organic products are kept within the strict
ranges defined by EU legislation. Growing conditions are very varied from
country to country and experience with GM crops is still limited in
Europe. It therefore does not seem appropriate to propose unified EU
rules at this time."

Experience with the cultivation of GM crops remains extremely limited in
the EU. Commercial cultivation has so far been limited to two types of GM
maize. In Spain, GM maize cultivation amounted to 58,000 hectares in
2004, or about 12 percent of total Spanish maize cultivation. In other
Member States, cultivation is limited to a few hundred hectares. In
Spain, GM maize has been grown since 1998 under a non-binding code of
good practice.

On 23 July 2003, the Commission adopted a Recommendation on guidelines
for the development of national strategies and best practices, to help
Member States develop national legislative or other strategies for co-
existence. Most Member States are still developing national approaches,
with specific co-existence legislation adopted in four Member States
(Germany, Denmark, Portugal and six of the Austrian Lšnder) by the end of
2005. Monitoring programmes still have to be set up and implemented in
order to verify the effectiveness and economic feasibility of the
measures taken.

Co-existence measures aim at protecting farmers of non-GM crops from the
possible economic consequences of accidental mixing of crops with GMOs.
The Commission Recommendation states that co-existence measures should
not go beyond what is necessary to ensure that accidental traces of GMOs
in non-GM products stay below EU labelling thresholds in order to avoid
any unnecessary burden for the operators concerned. Measures should be
science-based and proportionate and must not generally forbid the growing
of GM crops.

Most Member States have based their approaches on management measures
applicable at the level of individual farms or in coordination between
neighbouring farms. The onus of implementing segregation measures has
generally been placed on GM crop growers. The very diverse nature of EU
farming means that co-existence measures have to be adapted to local
conditions and crop types, and make it imperative to ensure the maximum
degree of flexibility for the Member States in developing their national
approaches.

The Commission believes there is a need to gather further experience
before departing from the current subsidiarity-based approach set out in
the 2003 Recommendation. However, it intends to take very careful notice
of the opinions expressed by stakeholders. The co-existence conference
organised in Vienna on 5-6 April 2006 will provide such an occasion. In
the meantime, the Commission proposes to strengthen its efforts to ensure
the maximum cooperation between Member States; analyse the latest
scientific and economic information available on segregation measures;
develop jointly with the Member States best practices for technical
segregation measures leading to crop-specific recommendations; and obtain
more information on national civil liability systems. In 2008, the
Commission will report on the progress made, including an update on the
development and implementation of national co-existence measures.

Please see: IP/06/230
http://europa.eu.int/comm/agriculture/coexistence/index_en.htm


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

TITLE:  EU Threatens Action on Modified Crop Bans
SOURCE: Associated Press, by Constant Brand
        http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/060310/eu_biotech.html?.v=2
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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EU Threatens Action on Modified Crop Bans
European Union Threatens Legal Action Against Member States That Ban
Modified Crops

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union threatened legal action
Friday against member states that create biotech-free growing zones in
their countries, warning that doing so would violate EU trade rules.

A European Commission report said the EU head office would at this time
not draft complex EU-wide safety guidelines on growing genetically
modified crops, saying such a move was not needed as there remains only
limited cultivation of such crops alongside conventional or organic crops
in the 25-nation bloc.

"The main conclusion of the report is that there appears to be no
justification at this time for EU-wide legislation," said EU spokesman
Philip Tod, adding that under current rules governing the use of biotech
products in Europe, member states had to draft and present their own
national measures to the commission.

Only three countries, Spain, France and Germany, grow an approved
genetically-modified form of maize.

The EU report made clear, however, that a ban on such crops, being
championed by several EU states, was not allowed as part of such national
safeguards.

"Coexistence measures are designed to ensure that GM crops can be grown
alongside non-GM crops without negative economic consequences caused by
accidental mixing of the two," Tod said.

On Thursday, several EU governments said the EU's current approval system
of new biotech products into Europe be made tougher, arguing that the
current expert review was too weak.

The report by the commission, which favors allowing in more biotech
products for use, is likely to widen a rift between EU governments, many
of which remain vehemently against their cultivation in Europe. The
division could pave new obstacles to mostly U.S.-based biotech companies
like Monsanto Co. trying to enter the European market in a trade worth
billions of dollars.

Washington and other trade partners argue that the EU is violating world
trade rules in restricting imports of biotech crops.

Many regional governments and national governments including Austria,
Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Slovenia have already enacted new
laws to prevent genetically altered crops from spreading to non-biotech
crops nearby.

While the commission does not oppose such rules in principle, it argues
in its report that the laws enacted by these countries could be "overly
restrictive."

The report says national or regional rules on coexistence "have to be in
full compliance" with EU legislation, ruling out attempts by member
states to declare regions or their whole countries biotech-free zones.

EU officials said regional governments, like those in Italy, had no power
to impose bans.

The EU report argues such measures are unfair trade obstacles "which may
make the cultivation of genetically modified crops practically impossible."

It added the EU "will take the necessary steps to ensure that (EU)
community legislation is respected in national and regional coexistence
legislation."

Environmental groups found fault with the report.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Helen Holder said the EU report failed to
make proposals for new safety rules for growing biotech crops and said
that would open the way to major problems. "The EU commission approach is
clearly a failure," she said.

"The commission has approved every GMO (genetically modified organism)
that the industry has passed its way and is now trying to bully with
threats of legal action against any country or region that wants to
defend the right of farmers and consumers not to plant GMOs," said Eric
Gall from Greenpeace.

At EU environment ministers talks Thursday, Polish Environment Minister
Jan Szyszko said his government was planning to ban the growing of
biotech crops across the entire country. Cyprus and Greece also backed
regional bans, arguing that traditional small farms, located closely
together would make the safe cultivation of biotech crops alongside
others impossible to control.

Some EU ministers argued previous approvals of eight products since the
EU lifted its moratorium in 2003 were done without proper research. They
also demanded the EU come up with clear rules on coexistence and
liability rules for farmers.

The Austrian government, which holds the EU presidency, holds a
conference reviewing EU policy on GM products and their use in Europe in
April.


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

TITLE:  EU member states divided on GM products
SOURCE: EUObserver, by Helena Spongenberg
        http://euobserver.com/9/21102
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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EU member states divided on GM products

EU member states remain divided on the contentious issue of genetically
modified products despite an end to the bloc's moratorium two years ago.

Most EU countries want to change the way new biotech crops are approved
for sale in the 25-member bloc.

"We need more thorough European legislation," Spanish environment
minister Cristina Narbona said after an EU environment ministers meeting
on Thursday (9 March), according to Bloomberg news agency.

Both Spain and Italy were among those countries asking for stricter rules
for approving genetically modified foods during the meeting.

However, some member states, including the UK, Denmark, Ireland and the
Netherlands, are satisfied with the current system.

The EU's "regulations provide us with a high level of protection", said
Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard.

The European Commission wants to speed up the EU approval process for
Europe to get a bigger share in the biotech market which is worth
billions of euro.

Last month, the World Trade Organisation ruled that the EU had violated
trade agreements for years by making it too difficult for new types of
genetically modified crops to be approved.

The bloc lifted a ban on genetically modified crops two years ago but, so
far, no plans for cultivating biotech crops have been approved within the EU.

Many European governments are concerned about the potential environmental
risks of genetically modified food saying it could cross-contaminate
neighbouring non-modified crop fields.


National restrictions

Earlier this year, the commission ordered Greece to lift its ban on GMO
maize seeds made by US biotech giant Monsanto, arguing Athens did not
provide any proof for claims that the products damage human health.

Greek authorities are planning to take the case to the EU courts, but EU
judges have previously ruled against a similar ban by the region of Upper
Austria.

EU policy on GMOs is based on a 2001 law that provides for a case-by-case
authorisation regime for the release of GMO products into the bloc's
common market on the basis of a safety check by national authorities and
the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).


Europe-wide debate

National government attempts to ban GMO products approved in Brussels
have come about as a result of popular opposition to the biotech industry.

Last November, Swiss citizens supported a five-year moratorium on the
farming of genetically modified plants and animals, paving the way for an
introduction of the toughest restrictions yet in Europe.

Austrian authorities have reacted by promising they would hold a pan-
European debate about the future of GMOs across the continent during
their current EU presidency, with the meeting scheduled for 4 and 5 April.


                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU ducks GM rules
SOURCE: EUPolitix, by Bruno Waterfield
        http://www.eupolitix.com/EN/News/200603/e86024f9-1083-4493-8731-
e387835ecf0c.htm
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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EU ducks GM rules

Any EU move to Europe-wide legislation on the coexistence of GM with
conventional crops has been postponed until 2008 or beyond.

A European commission study has concluded that EU legislation setting
rules are not feasible while Europe's remains an almost GM-free zone.

The issue is set to be debated at an EU presidency conference in Vienna
on April 5 - Austria is deeply hostile to GM crops.

The commission in 2003 placed the burden on national authorities of
ensuring that GM crops are grown alongside non-GM crops without
accidental mixing.

Public hostility, strict labelling laws and the organic farm lobby's
ideological opposition to biotech have raised fears that GM entering the
mix could have negative economic consequences.

European agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel stressed that
developing coexistence techniques was a choice rather that a safety issue.

"This is not a question of health or environmental protection, because no
GMOs are allowed on the EU market unless they have been proved to be
completely safe," she said.

"To ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying the EU has
developed an advanced labelling and traceability system for GM."

Fischer Boel argues that experience with segregation measures to keep GM
kept within strict ranges defined by EU legislation is too limited at
present to generalise from.

"Growing conditions are very varied from country to country and
experience with GM crops is still limited in Europe. It therefore does
not seem appropriate to propose unified EU rules at this time," she said.

A March 10 commission report notes that "experience with the cultivation
of GM crops remains extremely limited in the EU".

Commercial cultivation in the EU is so far restricted to two types of GM
maize concentrated in just one of the EU 25 members.

Spanish GM maize cultivation was at 58,000 hectares in 2004 representing
12 per cent of total production.

"In other member states cultivation is limited to a few hundred
hectares," said a commission statement.

Spain has adopted no legislation, taking a voluntary approach and only
Germany, Denmark, Portugal and six Austrian Lšnder had acted by the end
of 2005.

US and other countries have taken the EU to the WTO over claims that some
European capitals have imposed rules effectively banning GM.

The WTO ruled last month that the EU was breaching global trade
agreements by restricting approvals of new GM crops.

The commission insist that coexistence measures "should be science-based
and proportionate and must not generally forbid the growing of GM crops".

But while running scared of setting Europe's wide rules, Brussels has
raised internal free market objections to many national schemes.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth accuse the commission of
leaving the door open to GM crops and delaying legislation until biotech
is widespread.

"The commission has decided to first contaminate and then legislate, a
move in line with the interests of the biotechnology industry," said FOE
GM campaigner Helen Holder.

"By adopting a 'wait-and-contaminate' policy, the commission ignores the
rights of European consumers and farmers who do not want to experiment
with genetically modified foods."


                                 PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Ministers take Aim at Biotech Approvals Policy
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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EU Ministers take Aim at Biotech Approvals Policy

BRUSSELS - Europe's policy on genetically modified (GMO) crops and foods
came under fire on Thursday from EU environment ministers, many of whom
complained of a lack of transparency and that their concerns were often
ignored. Despite ending its unofficial moratorium on approving new GMO
products in 2004, a de facto ban recently criticised at the World Trade
Organization, the EU's pace of new GMO approvals has been painfully slow
- some eight products in nearly two years.

All those authorisations have been issued by the European Commission,
using a legal default procedure that kicks in when EU governments
repeatedly fail to agree after a given period of time, within the bloc's
complex weighted voting system.

In many cases, more than half of the EU-25 has opposed the approval. But
that simple majority is not enough, since EU rules require a weighted
majority to approve or reject a GMO approval.

The weighting depends on a country's size and economic power, among other
factors.

"It doesn't do much for democratic legitimacy if the European Commission
approves specific GMOs even in the face of objections from a majority of
member states," Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard said in a
public debate on GMO policy.

"This procedure does not seem to be able to make the wishes of a majority
of member states possible. There is a big majority against GMOs in public
opinion," Stavros Kaloyannis, Greece's state environment secretary, told
the EU ministers.

Several countries called for the GMO voting system to be changed, saying
authorisations should only be issued if a clear majority of EU states
were in favour. Changing the system is no easy task, since it also
applies to several other policy areas.

Despite the EU ending its blockade on new GMO products, the bloc's 25
governments are still deeply divided on the merits and disadvantages of
GMO foods. The WTO verdict on EU policy seems to have done little to
change that long-standing stalemate.

Debates on biotech policy are always heated and usually split into a
clear "pro" and "anti" camp. Neither can muster enough support to approve
or reject a new approval, ensuring deadlock. More and more countries
choose to sit on the fence.

Britain, Finland and the Netherlands always vote in favour, while
Austria, Greece and Luxembourg are consistently opposed.


FOOD AGENCY UNDER FIRE

Several ministers called for increased transparency in GMO policy, and
more national government and public involvement, to raise confidence in
EU decision-making among consumers. Polls show more than 70 percent of
Europeans oppose biotech foods.

"We need credibility, trust from the public for our authorisation
procedure," said Humberto Rosa, state environment secretary for Portugal.
"We need more transparency ... otherwise it will be very difficult to
regain public confidence."

Europe's leading food safety agency EFSA, which conducts scientific risk
assessments of GMO products awaiting approval, was accused of not taking
independent and national studies into account, and of not allowing proper
access to its research.

This is not the first time EFSA, set up in 2002, has drawn fire on its
GMO reports, mainly by green groups which say the agency shows repeated
bias in favour of the biotech industry.

This view is hotly disputed by the industry itself, which says EFSA's
independent work is being undermined by a small number of countries that
oppose GMO crops on purely political, and not scientific, grounds.

"I am aware of the criticism that is being directed towards its (EFSA's)
working procedures," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told a
news conference.

"It has only recently been established and, as for any large
organisation, is still finding its feet," he said, adding that "certain
changes may be beneficial".


                                 PART VI
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EUROPEAN COMMISSION: CONTAMINATE, THEN LEGISLATE
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe, Press Release
DATE:   10 Mar 2006

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EUROPEAN COMMISSION: CONTAMINATE, THEN LEGISLATE
New report on GMOs reveals EU Commission going for "wait-and-contaminate"
policy

Brussels, 10 March 2006 - The Commission of the European Union is
avoiding EU-wide legislation on the coexistence of genetically modified
(GM) and non-GM crops, a move that could lead to the irreversible
contamination of Europe's food, seeds and environment.

The "wait-and-contaminate" policy on genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) is in a report by the European Commission, which is due to be
published today (March 10). The report has been obtained in advance by
Friends of the Earth Europe (1).

Whilst the Commission recommends in the report that coexistence measures
be decided at country level, it has in fact objected to half of all legal
proposals from EU Member States. The report lacks any clear proposals or
conclusions and effectively delays any concrete decision until 2008.

Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The
European Commission has decided to first contaminate and then legislate,
a move in line with the interests of the biotechnology industry. By
adopting a 'wait-and-contaminate' policy, the Commission ignores the
rights of European consumers and farmers who do not want to experiment
with genetically modified foods."

The EU report on the coexistence between GM, conventional and organic
crops looks at current measures by EU member states to protect farming
from contamination:

- The Commission threatens countries or regions with legal action if they
try to prohibit the growing of GM crops. Currently 172 European regions
have expressed their desire to be GM free. (2)

- The Commission considers that a half of all the legislative coexistence
proposals by EU member states "create obstacles to the free movement of
goods".

- Coexistence measures that ban the growing of GM crops in "protected or
ecologically sensitive regions" are not permitted, despite existing
legislation which allows this for individual GMOs.

- Schemes that require GM growers to obtain insurance against
contamination should not be mandatory as this type of insurance cover is
not available in the EU and this would "make the cultivation of GM crops
impossible."

- The Commission is not however threatening to take countries to court if
they set a threshold for contamination lower than the Commission's
recommended 0.9%. This confirms independent legal advice that the
Commission's use of the labeling threshold for coexistence is "legally
flawed" (3).

"The EU Commission approach is clearly a failure," Helen Holder said. "It
must stop dodging its responsibility and introduce an EU law that
prevents contamination of our food, farming and environment".



A Friends of the Earth briefing on the Commission report is available at:
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/
Media_Briefing_coexistence_10_March_2006.pdf


Contact:
Helen Holder, GMO campaign coordinator, +32 (0)474 857 638

Notes:

(1) A final draft of the Commission report obtained by Friends of the
Earth can be downloaded at:
http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/download/commission_report.pdf

(2) http://www.gmofree-europe.org/

(3) Advice - In the matter of Co-existence, traceability and labelling of
GMOs. K.P.E. Lasok QC and Rebecca Haynes, 21 January 2005.
http://www.gmofree-europe.org/Summary_Lasok_Advice.pdf





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