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GMO-FREE REGIONS & REGULATION: EU states can ban GM crops for public ordersays EC draft



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   EU STATES CAN BAN GM CROPS FOR PUBLIC ORDER: DRAFT

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Charlie Dunmore

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/03/us-eu-gmo-bans-idUSTRE71267M20110203

DATE:    03.02.2011

SUMMARY: "European Union governments could ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops to maintain public order in the face of popular opposition to the technology, the bloc?s executive said in a draft document. Bans could also be justified on public morality grounds, such as religious or philosophical concerns over GM technology, according to a list drawn up by the European Commission as part of plans to let states decide whether to grow or ban GM crops."

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EU STATES CAN BAN GM CROPS FOR PUBLIC ORDER: DRAFT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments could ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops to maintain public order in the face of popular opposition to the technology, the bloc?s executive said in a draft document.

Bans could also be justified on public morality grounds, such as religious or philosophical concerns over GM technology, according to a list drawn up by the European Commission as part of plans to let states decide whether to grow or ban GM crops.

The list was drafted after EU countries asked the Commission to spell out the grounds on which they could justify proposed GM crop bans. While it is not yet final, it gives a clear indication of the Commission?s likely recommendations.

?Such reasons ... could be invoked, alone or where relevant in combination, by a member state to restrict or prohibit GMO cultivation in all or part of its territory,? said the document drafted by the Commission?s consumer affairs department and seen by Reuters.

Other possible reasons on the ?open list? include safeguarding the choice of producers and consumers to grow and buy non-GM products, town and country planning decisions, and preserving natural areas or traditional farming practices.

When using any of the listed reasons as the basis for a ban, EU states must ensure restrictions are ?justified, proportionate and non-discriminatory,? the document added.

The Commission drew up the list after several EU governments voiced concerns that without solid legal arguments, national cultivation bans could leave them open to legal challenges in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

By telling governments what arguments they might use to ban GM crops, the Commission hopes to soften strong opposition from several large EU states to its plan to devolve to national level any decisions on allowing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

NO LEGAL CERTAINTY

The list is set to be discussed by EU government experts in Brussels on February 11.

A Commission spokesman said the EU executive would wait to gauge the reaction from governments, but there were currently no plans to amend the GM cultivation proposals and add the list to the draft legislation.

One EU legal expert said that although the reasons on the list were drawn from existing EU legislation and European court rulings, the only way to make them legally secure would be to add them to the draft legislation.

?Without that, the legal validity of this list is quite questionable, and would not protect EU countries against legal action by biotech companies, farmers or WTO trade partners,? said Thijs Etty, assistant professor of EU law at VU University Amsterdam.

Even if the list was added to the legislation, most of the reasons given are not valid under existing WTO regulations, and countries will struggle to prove that national GM crop bans based on such reasons are proportionate and non-discriminatory, Etty added.

The Commission proposed giving governments the power to decide on bans in July, in a bid to break a long-standing deadlock in EU GM crop approvals which has seen just two varieties approved for cultivation in more than 12 years.

(Editing by Rex Merrifield and Anthony Barker)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GROWING GM CROPS ?COULD POSE A THREAT TO PUBLIC ORDER?

SOURCE:  European Voice, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Jennifer Rankin

URL:     http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/growing-gm-crops-could-pose-a-threat-to-public-order-/70111.aspx

DATE:    03.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Public morals, public order and ?historical heritage? might be under threat from genetically modified crops, according to the European Commission, which has proposed that these issues could be cited by member state governments as grounds for imposing a national ban on cultivation. National experts and the Commission will discuss the full list next week, as part of the process of changing the rules of the European Union?s system for approving GM crops for cultivation."

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GROWING GM CROPS ?COULD POSE A THREAT TO PUBLIC ORDER?

Public morals, public order and ?historical heritage? might be under threat from genetically modified crops, according to the European Commission, which has proposed that these issues could be cited by member state governments as grounds for imposing a national ban on cultivation.

National experts and the Commission will discuss the full list next week (11 February), as part of the process of changing the rules of the European Union?s system for approving GM crops for cultivation. Since the draft directive on GM cultivation was published last June, talks between the EU institutions have become entangled in legal issues, and several member states doubt the robustness of the Commission?s proposal.

The plan, presented by John Dalli, the European commissioner for health and consumer policy, is to give governments greater leeway to ban GM crop cultivation, as long as they do not base their decision on health or environmental grounds.

Legal challenges

Some countries that have reservations over GM technology fear that this get-out clause is too limited, and could expose them to legal challenges from outside the EU or from biotechnology companies. These concerns were reinforced when a recent opinion from the legal service of the Council of Ministers damned the proposal as contrary to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and the EU?s own single market.

In response, Dalli agreed in December to compile a list of acceptable reasons for a ban. A draft seen by European Voice gives seven reasons for GM bans: public morals; ensuring consumers can buy GM-free products; public order; town and country planning; preservation of farming diversity; cultural and historical heritage; and vaguely-defined ?social policy objectives?.

Thijs Etty, assistant professor of EU law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, suggested that the legal validity of the list was doubtful, especially if it was simply a recommendation and not enshrined in EU law.

He added that exemptions to internal-market rules often failed to provide solid legal defences. ?The real difficulty will not be in finding suitable grounds, but proving that the measures are not discriminatory or disproportionate.?

?Even if member states find perfectly acceptable grounds in the treaty, usually the court will strike it down on the basis of disproportionality and that is what will happen in this case.?

Public morals might withstand a challenge in the WTO, although even that presented difficulties, he said. ?The rest of the list is very unlikely to hold up in a WTO context.?

Mute Schimpf at Friends of the Earth predicted that governments would ask the Commission to think again: ?Until this list is changed we don?t think that the Commission offers any legal certainty for member states.?



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   EUROPEAN APPROACH TO GM ?TOO SIMPLISTIC?

SOURCE:  Farmers Weekly, UK

AUTHOR:  Caroline Stocks

URL:     http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/02/03/125369/European-approach-to-GM-too-simplistic.htm

DATE:    03.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The European Commission?s approach towards growing genetically-modified crops in Europe has been criticised for being ?too simplistic?. A draft report by the European Parliament agriculture committee says Commission plans to allow member states more freedom over planting GMs do not give countries enough flexibility to create their own rules for accepting or banning them."

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EUROPEAN APPROACH TO GM ?TOO SIMPLISTIC?

The European Commission?s approach towards growing genetically-modified crops in Europe has been criticised for being ?too simplistic?.

A draft report by the European Parliament agriculture committee says Commission plans to allow member states more freedom over planting GMs do not give countries enough flexibility to create their own rules for accepting or banning them.

It says member states should have a greater say over GMs than whether they are acceptable on moral and ethical grounds.

It should not just be the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to decide if GMs should be banned for health and environmental reasons, it adds.

MEP Corinne Lepage, who wrote the draft, said the diversity of ecosystems across Europe meant member states should be able to carry out their own risk analyses of the suitability of GMs, even if similar tests had been carried out by the EFSA.

The suitability of GMs should also be considered in terms of changes in agricultural practices, GM crops? effects on soils and their socio-economic effect on farmers, she added.

Referring to a Europe-wide poll, which found 61% of people were ?nervous? about GM food, the draft report says the Commission should also adopt new risk-assessment guidelines that identify the possible effects of GMs.

It also calls for European-wide rules to ensure non-GM products are not contaminated with those which have been genetically modified.

The report is due to be voted on by the European Parliament?s Environment Committee in April.

Its publication came as Bulgaria announced it had banned farmers from growing GM maize in a bid to ?protect Bulgarian agriculture?.

The variety, MON 810, was approved for cultivation in the EU in 1998 but has since been banned by six countries, including Austria, Hungary and France.