GENET archive


REGULATION & POLICY: EU moves fast on Life Science andBiotechnology Strategy but is slow on coexistence rules

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Austria says EU progress on GMO crop law too slow
SOURCE: Reuters
AUTHOR: Jeremy Smith
DATE:   22.05.2007

Austria says EU progress on GMO crop law too slow

MAINZ, Germany - Austria's farm minister attacked the EU executive on
Monday for dithering over rules for separating traditional, organic and
biotech crops, saying too many issues were unresolved over Europe's
biotech crop policy.

In February 2006, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel
disappointed many biotech-wary countries by saying a Europe-wide law on
crop separation -- known as "coexistence" in EU jargon -- was not
necessary, reversing previous suggestions that she might be ready to
propose such a law.

Two months later, then-EU president Austria hosted a conference on
coexistence where it became clear that EU countries wanted the European
Commission, the EU's executive arm, to start drafting more specific crop-
growing guidelines.

Little has happened since then. Last month, Commission officials said
work was not due to start in earnest until the second half of 2007 and
then, maybe, take up to two years as experts sifted through scientific
data on plant varieties.

The first plant variety to be examined will be maize, at present the
only biotech crop that is grown on EU-27 territory.

"We had the conference last year during our presidency and we were very
optimistic," Austrian Agriculture Minister Josef Proell told Reuters on
the margins of an informal meeting of EU farm ministers in Germany.

"So I'm really disappointed about the fact the Commission has given no
signal and it's not enough for a discussion," he said.

"If you want a step forward in the question of GMOs ... then we need new
proposals and what to do with coexistence."

In July 2003, the Commission issued guidelines on how farmers should
separate the three crop types.

The idea was for national governments to make their own laws to
facilitate growing of genetically modified (GMO) crops if farmers wanted
to grow them.

While EU countries are not obliged to legislate on coexistence, around
seven EU countries now have laws in place and a further eight countries
have notified their plans.

Many of these countries have still to develop crop-specific "good
farming" practices, such as field isolation distances and crop-cleaning
procedures, and very few have specific rules on economic liability in
cases of cross-contamination.

"We cannot find common European rules on coexistence -- and (so) we
cannot open the market in Austria for GMOs. We have a very strong and
clear position. Until we solve the question of coexistence, there is no
movement from our side," Proell said.

Another problem is the threshold of permitted GMO content in batches of
conventional seeds

Brussels wants to update legislation on seeds so it can ease the way to
approving new GMO crops for planting. But this has proved so
controversial that even the Commission, usually united on GMO policy,
cannot agree. The idea is to set thresholds so that the labelling
threshold for final products at the end of the food production chain,
which the EU has set at 0.9 percent, can be respected.

"Seeds are still an open problem and coexistence is not resolved or
discussed in the Commission," Proell said.

"A lot of open questions, but no answers," he said.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  EU to approve support for failing GM crops sector
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe, Belgium
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   21.05.2007

EU to approve support for failing GM crops sector

Brussels, May 21st 2007 - The EU is poised today to approve further
financial and political support for genetically modified (GM) crops [1],
despite growing evidence that the sector is failing.

Helen Holder, coordinator of the Friends of the Earth Europe GMOs
campaign, said: 
"EU leaders continue to blindly push for genetically modified crops,
despite clear signals of their market failure. The EU should instead be
using the mid-term review of its strategy for biotechnology to promote
greener farming methods which are competitive and create jobs."

EU Competitiveness Ministers will today endorse a proposal from the
European Commission [2] that promotes genetically modified crops - among
other biotechnology sectors - while failing to acknowledge that:
- Industry and government figures show that the genetically modified
crops sector is failing [3]
- There is no market for GM crops since the majority of the European
public does not want to eat genetically modified food [4]
- The European Commission's measures for the commercial growing of
genetically modified crops are putting GM-free farming at risk from
contamination, as well as citizens' rights to GM-free food [5]
- GM crops currently offer no advantage over conventional crops for
producing biofuels and there is growing concern about the impacts in
developing countries about the large scale production of biofuels [6].

"Scratching under the spin reveals that the European Commission and EU
member states plan to chip away at biotechnology safety laws, put GM
free farming at irreversible risk of contamination and fund public
relations campaigns to sell GM crops to the European public," Ms Holder added.

Friends of the Earth Europe recently published an analysis of data from
both the agricultural biotechnology industry and the European
Commission, which showed that GM crops are not performing economically.
In contrast, green farming methods, including organic agriculture, show
real economic potential as well as being environmentally friendly and
benefiting from public support. [7]


For more information, please contact:
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Mobile +32 485 930515,
Helen Holder, coordinator of the Friends of the Earth Europe GMOs campaign:
Mobile +32 474 857638,

[1] Industrial Policy - Draft Council Conclusions, May 15th 2007, 9622/07
[2] Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European
Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee
of the Regions on the mid term review of the Strategy on Life Sciences
and Biotechnology, April 10th 2007, COM(2007) 175 final
[3] Critical I, 2005 and 2006
[4] Eurobarometer, Gaskell et al., June 2006
[5] "Contaminate or Legislate? European Commission policy on
"coexistence", Friends of the Earth Europe, April 2006,
[7] "The EU's Biotechnology Strategy: mid-term review or mid-life
crisis? A scoping study on how European agricultural biotechnology will
fail the Lisbon objectives and on the socioeconomic benefits of
ecologically compatible farming" Friends of the Earth Europe, March 2007

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Biotech industry welcomes Ministers support for biotechnology
SOURCE: Europabio, Belgium
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   21.05.2007

Biotech industry welcomes Ministers support for biotechnology

Today, the EU Council of Ministers supported the Commission's Mid-Term
Policy Review of the EU's Life Science and Biotechnology Strategy. The
Commission communication says Europe must take full advantage of
biotechnology and proposes a refocusing of the strategy to address the
greatest needs among the biotech sector: better regulation and access to
capital. Today the Competitiveness Council of Ministers endorsed the
strategy collectively.

The biotech industry considers that the refocused actions proposed by
the Commission are an important step towards building the bio-economy.
Industry hopes that the EU biotech strategy will be implemented by all
Member States without a biased pick and choose approach so as to obtain
a coherent policy in favour of biotechnology in Europe.

"It is in the hands of the member states to make the European
biotechnology strategy work, and it is very important that they work
together in a coordinated way to achieve policy coherence," said Johan
Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General EuropaBio.

For more information, contact
Adeline Farrelly Tel: +32 2 735 0313 - Direct: +32 2 739 1174 - Mobile:
+32 475
93 17 24 Email:
Dirk Carrez, Direct Tel: +32 2 739 1173 - Email:

Notes to editors

The Council Conclusions
The Competitiveness Council conclusions

Mid term review
EuropaBio web page on the Mid Term Review of the EU's Life Science and
Biotechnology Strategy

About EuropaBio
EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, has 78 direct
members operating Worldwide, 12 associate members and 5 bioregions as
well as 25 national biotechnology associations representing some 1800
small and medium sized enterprises involved in research and development,
testing, manufacturing and distribution of biotechnology products.

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