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[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: íMalta should oppose GMO proposals by European Commissioní



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   ?MALTA SHOULD OPPOSE GMO PROPOSALS BY EUROPEAN COMMISSION? AD

SOURCE:  The Times of Malta, Malta

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20101030/local/malta-should-oppose-gmo-proposals-by-european-commission-ad

DATE:    30.10.2010

SUMMARY: "Alternattiva Demokratika called upon the Maltese government to register its opposition, as the proposal will facilitate access of Genetically Modified Organisms in the EU and Malta. Spokesperson on agriculture and animal welfare Simon Galea said: ?AD strongly believes that GMO cultivation should be banned from the EU territory and Malta has a role to play in this regard, where it can declare itself a GMO-free territory and oppose the European Commission?s proposals."

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?MALTA SHOULD OPPOSE GMO PROPOSALS BY EUROPEAN COMMISSION? AD

Following proposals regarding GMO cultivation presented by European Commissioner John Dalli, Alternattiva Demokratika called upon the Maltese government to register its opposition, as the proposal will facilitate access of Genetically Modified Organisms in the EU and Malta.

Spokesperson on agriculture and animal welfare Simon Galea said:

?AD strongly believes that GMO cultivation should be banned from the EU territory and Malta has a role to play in this regard, where it can declare itself a GMO-free territory and oppose the European Commission?s proposals.

?EU member states should be legally bound to adhere with an EU ban on GMO cultivation and not left decided on individual basis to grant permission for GMO cultivation. Pollination knows no intra community borders, and this can result in irreversible GMO contamination from one country to the next and from one field to the next.?

AD chairman Michael Briguglio added:

Given that the EU is a free trade area, it is very difficult to verify movement of GMOs from one country to the other.

?The European Commission?s proposals, which will allow individual countries to permit GMO cultivation, are only to the benefit of big GMO companies that aim to make farmers dependent on their products.

?Together with other European Green Parties, environmental NGOs, consumer organisations and farmers we are therefore opposing Commissioner Dalli?s proposals.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GMO CHOPPING AND CHOOSING

SOURCE:  The Times of Malta, Malta

AUTHOR:  Anne Zamnit

URL:     http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20101024/environment/gmo-chopping-and-choosing

DATE:    24.10.2010

SUMMARY: "At a Malta-Europe Steering and Action Committee consultation on an EU proposal concerning cultivation of GMOs the farmers? producer group pointed out that current penalties for accidental release in Malta were very low. This was met by assurance that fines would soon be increased up to between ?12,000 and ?58,000 for every unintended release of a GMO into the environment. Malta?s importance as a gateway to the European market must be protected. As far as the authorities are aware, ?there are no Maltese farmers sowing GM crops in Malta?."

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GMO CHOPPING AND CHOOSING

?Malta, like other European member states, should be allowed both the freedom to decide what should be grown within its territory, and to ban any GMOs which can negatively affect our environment or economy.? ? Ecosystems Management Unit, Mepa.

?This product contains GMOs?, screams the lettering on a tub of bigilla in a Marsa supermarket. If people are already eating Gen-etically Modified Organisms then what would be wrong with growing them?

What are the risks? The Malta Environment and Planning Authority website provides a list of 13 possible negative impacts:

?Despite the many benefits they can bring, GMOs may also carry some risks of unwanted side-effects on agricultural production systems, human health and the environment,? reads the authority?s biosafety link.

Responsibility for compliance with the relevant EU directives is spread between Mepa for contained use and release into the environment, and the Malta Standards Authority for GM foods, and Veterinary Services for animal feeds. The Agriculture Department is responsible for issues related to the co-existence of conventional, organic and GM crops.

At a Malta-Europe Steering and Action Committee consultation on an EU proposal concerning cultivation of GMOs the farmers? producer group pointed out that current penalties for accidental release in Malta were very low.

This was met by assurance that fines would soon be increased up to between ?12,000 and ?58,000 for every unintended release of a GMO into the environment. Malta?s importance as a gateway to the European market must be protected.

As far as the authorities are aware, ?there are no Maltese farmers sowing GM crops in Malta?. According to a technical officer at Mepa, the environmental risk that GMOs might pose to Maltese ecosystems is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

With a Master?s degree in genetics, Joseph Abela Medici is the gatekeeper within Mepa, along with a number of other scientists on the Biosafety Co-ordinating Committee.

At the consultation meeting on the government?s position on cultivation of GMOs, he reported that Malta has many reservations on the possible impact on local agriculture.

Experiments carried out in northern Europe cannot simply be applied to the southern member states without looking into it further.

The effect of genetically modified rapeseed on conventional rapeseed was considered for only eight northern varieties growing in the wild when there are 22 different types in the more biodiverse regions of the south, around the Mediterranean.

With the EU enlargement in 2004, the biogeographic regions of southern Europe swelled from three to five, but this has not yet been taken into account. The effect of GMOs on a larger population of Europeans has also to be looked at.

Safeguard clauses have so far allowed Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg to oppose the growing of GM crops on their soil.

The US and Argentina object, having invested heavily in the research and development of products containing GMOs. As a result, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) argued that the safeguard clause was incompatible with trade and illegal, asking for its removal.

When John Dalli became EU Health and Consumer Safety Commissioner earlier this year, he inherited the former commissioner?s mission to put an end to the deadlock on GM crop cultivation in the EU.

A 13-year ban on cultivation of Amflora, a potato grown for its starch with uses in industry, was suddenly lifted as the European Food and Safety Authority gave its approval.

The decision was made despite Greenpeace claims that there is scientific evidence about the risk of anti-biotic resistance.

The government of Luxembourg declared a ban on Amflora, saying it was not ready to accept a GMO menu dictated to it by the European Commission.

Pinned to the ground by contrary votes on applications, the Commission is now aiming for a compromise, but there are fears that the freedom of a proposed legal GMO ban could turn sour.

The danger is whether individual countries might become liable if they apply a blanket ban, opting out on cultivation of approved GM crops.

The proposal is seen as a way of oiling stormy WTO waters. Both pro and anti lobbies have been stirred and shaken, settling in some instances on the same side.

Austria, Hungary and Greece, which are strong opponents of GMOs, have voiced support, along with pro-GMO Holland, which sees the proposal as a way forward out of the impasse.

Germany and France are worried that the Commission?s proposal could mean fragmentation of the EU?s internal marketand more trouble from WTO. This is strongly denied by the Commission.

Malta appears to be sizing up to support the proposal, although not without reservations. There are plans to oppose commercial varieties of genetically modified potatoes or tomatoes for cultivation, since these traditional crops are so important for Malta?s economy.

Socio-economic reasons, am-ong others, must be given for a ban if the directive is amended to allow individual national bans on GM cultivation.

Malta would oppose entry of a GMO if there is risk of proliferation. Case-by-case opt-outs seem preferable to a blanket ban, which might attract the WTO?s wrath. Either way, keeping GMOs at bay should not really be difficult to do on an island.

Climate also plays a part.

The only approved strain of genetically modified maize ? MON810 ? is unlikely to take root in Malta because of high water requirements, and so it would die off over the summer.

However, runaway contamination of a conventional potato field from sown seeds of a GM potato would be very difficult to control as it is almost impossible to eliminate this plant?s tuber.

Rather than the proposed regulation, which would allow the banning of GMOs in all or part of the territory of a member state, the alternative likely to be adopted in Malta?s case is to resort to co-existence measures.

These are precautions to avoid GMOs finding their way into other products and prevent potential economic loss from accidental mixture of GM and non-GM crops (including organic crops). New guidelines recognise the need for flexibility to take into account particular local needs of conventional, organic and other types of crops and products.

Using this approach, the government is studying how a ban of sorts might be implemented. For example, applying the measure against GMOs in protected areas and within five kilometres of other plants could effectively rule out plantings due to our small size.

The Agriculture Department, which falls under the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs, is responsible for putting these measures together.

The exception would be if there are clear and proven benefits for humans or the Maltese environment. As a ?far-fetched? example, ministry spokesman Stephen Cachia pointed out that plants genetically modified to resist climate change (drought resistant) might also prove to be an exception, should no other option be available.

?There are not yet any applications in Malta or the EU for this, but it is one of the paths where the GM science is going,? noted Abela Medici.

A Mepa spokesman said that in such cases, ?Malta might evaluate the particular GMO on a case-by-case basis and might allow its cultivation, landpermitting?.

On the subject of food, if there is any doubt about whether oil used in bigilla or other products might be of genetically modified origin, the food producer is still obliged to feature on its label, ?May contain GMOs?.




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