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[genet-news] CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: EU plans to loosen zero tolerance policy on GM crops



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   EU PLANS TO LOOSEN ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ON GM CROPS

SOURCE:  Deutsche Welle, Germany

AUTHOR:  Ben Knight & Reuters, Agence France Presse

URL:     http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6234578,00.html

DATE:    15.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Leaked documents suggest the European Union is planning to loosen its zero tolerance ban on genetically modified plants. [...] "This is based upon the false argument that international trade is severely disrupted when shipments of feed containing unauthorised GM feed are rejected," the FoEE said. The campaigners claimed that no shipment from any feed importing country (US, Argentina or Brazil) was rejected at a European port in 2010."

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EU PLANS TO LOOSEN ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ON GM CROPS

Leaked documents suggest the European Union is planning to loosen its zero tolerance ban on genetically modified (GM) plants. Environmental campaigners are outraged, saying the crops are still potentially dangerous.

According to environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), the European Commission is planning to allow traces of non-approved GM crops in imports coming into Europe (with a threshold of 0.1 percent). "Europe would effectively open its borders for GM crops which are not authorized or assessed for their safety in any country of the world," an FoEE statement said.

A number of European Union governments on Monday urged the bloc's executive to allow tiny traces of GM material in food imports for human consumption as well as in animal feed, an EU source said. However, it is not yet clear whether enough EU governments support the change to force the European Commission to amend its proposal, and a final decision is unlikely before January at the earliest.

"The European Commission is bowing to the scaremongering tactics of the biotech industry, and as a result, opening Europe's markets to unauthorized GM food and feed." Mute Schimpf, an FoEE food campaigner said. "Europe's laws on genetically modified foods are there for a reason ? to protect the public and the environment."

Biotech pressure

Environmentalists believe that the EU's hand is being forced by the bio-technology industry, which is arguing that the EU's total ban on GM crops could bring about a crisis in the feed sector, and farmers may be forced to slaughter animals rather than let them starve.

"This is based upon the false argument that international trade is severely disrupted when shipments of feed containing unauthorised GM feed are rejected," the FoEE said. The campaigners claimed that no shipment from any feed importing country (US, Argentina or Brazil) was rejected at a European port in 2010.

"The right of the public to say no to GM foods and feeds must be respected," Schimpf demanded. "Member states should reject this proposal and maintain Europe's position on zero tolerance."

Farmers' interests

But European farmer organizations have shown little concern over the proposal. Amanda Cheesley, spokeswoman for Copa Cogeca, the umbrella group of European farming organizations, told Deutsche Welle, "We are not averse to imports of GM feed coming in. If it's been approved under the Commission's authorization procedures, then we don't have a problem with it."

Cheesley believes that the EU's current zero tolerance policy is unsustainable. "We want a solution to be found to that because in practise you can't have zero tolerance," she said. "It stops imports coming in, which means that feed prices go too high for livestock."

Cheesley says that Europe's farmers have other worries. "We have concerns about the Commission's proposals to let member states have different policies on GM products," she said.

The Commission made legal proposals in July to allow national governments make their own decisions on the controversial crops, in a bid to break the longstanding EU deadlock on new GM product approvals.

But a new opinion from the EU Council of Ministers' legal service could deal a fatal blow to the plans, after several EU governments already expressed fears that the draft law risks breaching World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

New guidelines

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also set out new guidelines for biotech companies submitting GM crops for EU approval on Friday, including on possible long-term effects of GM crops and their impacts on insects and other plants.

The new guidelines follow a request from EU governments in 2008 to strengthen EFSA's GM crop assessment procedures, and criticism from countries including France that EFSA had failed to take full account of environmental concerns when approving new crops.

France has refused to discuss European Commission proposals to let member states decide whether to grow or ban GM crops, until the EU's assessment procedures have been strengthened.

In December, the Commission is due to publish a report on the socio-economic risks and benefits of GM crops, and new rules on monitoring GM crops are due next year, as part of the wider overhaul of the bloc's approval and assessment procedures.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   EU URGED TO ALLOW TRACE GM IN FOOD IMPORTS: SOURCE

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Charlie Dunmore

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AE3N120101115

DATE:    15.11.2010

SUMMARY: "A number of European Union governments on Monday urged the bloc's executive to allow tiny traces of genetically modified material in food imports for human consumption as well as in animal feed, an EU source said. But it is not yet clear whether enough EU governments support the change to force the European Commission to amend its proposal, and a final decision is unlikely before January at the earliest."

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EU URGED TO ALLOW TRACE GM IN FOOD IMPORTS: SOURCE

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A number of European Union governments on Monday urged the bloc's executive to allow tiny traces of genetically modified (GM) material in food imports for human consumption as well as in animal feed, an EU source said.

But it is not yet clear whether enough EU governments support the change to force the European Commission to amend its proposal, and a final decision is unlikely before January at the earliest.

The Commission has proposed allowing up to 0.1 percent of unapproved GM material in feed imports, provided the GM crop in question has been approved in the exporting country and there is a valid EU testing method for the unapproved variety.

EU and national officials met in Brussels late on Monday to discuss the draft plans, which are meant to avoid a repeat of last year's disruption to feed imports, when several U.S. grain shipments were blocked after being found to contain traces of unapproved GM material.

A number of member states asked the Commission to include food imports in the proposal, said the source, who was in the meeting and would not specify which countries requested the change.

"They wanted more clarification on why feed and not food. Some welcomed the approach, some were reluctant and some asked for clarification," the source said.

The demand by some states followed warnings from EU importers and the bloc's main trade partners, who have said a feed-only approach would be unworkable because it is impossible to separate the global grain supply chain into food and feed.

The Commission has said it wants to address feed imports first, given that they have the greatest economic impact in terms of overall EU imports, and that a similar solution for food could be agreed in future should the need arise.

Despite the concerns expressed by some EU governments, the question remains whether enough of them are prepared to openly push to include food, given the strength of the public's distaste for GM products in most EU countries.

Several officials in the meeting said their governments still didn't have a final position on the issue, and as a result a committee vote on the Commission's proposal is unlikely before January at the earliest, the source added.

If approved by the committee of member state experts, EU ministers and the European Parliament would then have three months to either accept or reject the proposal, meaning that it could be finalized in the first half of 2011




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