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POLICY & REGULATION: Sticky future for honey imports and coexistance rules to EU after GM ruling



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   STICKY FUTURE FOR HONEY IMPORTS TO EU AFTER GM RULING

SOURCE:  Agence France Press, France

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jiJoy-VjL4vgpbYmQPcl244verwQ?docId=CNG.f1f5b8b061501ede51979a1e1f42063a.7c1

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Honey from nations such as Argentina and China using genetically-modified cereals could face import restrictions into the EU [...] The EU?s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, on Tuesday ruled that honey containing even tiny traces of pollen from GM maize could not be sold in the 27-nation bloc without prior authorisation. ?It is very likely that indeed the ruling of the court will have an impact on imports of honey into the EU, because the EU is not self-sufficient when it comes to honey,? said commission spokesman Frederic Vincent."

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STICKY FUTURE FOR HONEY IMPORTS TO EU AFTER GM RULING

BRUSSELS ? Honey from nations such as Argentina and China using genetically-modified cereals could face import restrictions into the EU following a key judicial ruling, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The EU?s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, on Tuesday ruled that honey containing even tiny traces of pollen from GM maize could not be sold in the 27-nation bloc without prior authorisation.

?It is very likely that indeed the ruling of the court will have an impact on imports of honey into the EU, because the EU is not self-sufficient when it comes to honey,? said commission spokesman Frederic Vincent.

?Some of the honey imported into the EU comes from countries like Argentina and China, where you have some GM production. So we will have to look into that,? he added.

The court said that honey and food supplements containing pollen derived from a genetically-modified organism were foodstuffs produced from GMOs which could not be marketed without prior authorisation.

The decision, which delighted environmental campaigners against the march of so-called ?Frankenfoods,? stemmed from a claim mounted by amateur German beekeeper Karl Heinz Bablok and the state of Bavaria.

Authorised GM maize was grown there by US industry giant Monsanto just hundreds of yards from Bablok?s bees.

EU governments voted earlier this year to allow crops containing tiny traces of genetically-modified produce to enter the European food chain for the first time, but the honey ruling may see tightened rules re-introduced.

?The commission of course will abide by the ECJ ruling, but we will have to analyze the 50-page ruling from the court to ensure compliance with it,? Vincent added.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   COURT RULING CHALLENGES EU LAWS ON GMO CO-EXISTENCE

SOURCE:  EurActiv, Belgium

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.euractiv.com/cap/court-ruling-challenges-eu-laws-gmo-existence-news-507332

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The European Commission sought to regulate the co-existence of GMOs with other crops in a 2010 recommendation, which is not legally binding. The recommendation was part of a wider package which proposed allowing individual EU member states to ban GMO cultivation on their territory.

Discussions on adopting the new rules are still ongoing. ?When co-existence measures are not sufficient to prevent the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional or organic crops, member states may restrict GMO cultivation in large areas of their territory,? the Commission said."

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COURT RULING CHALLENGES EU LAWS ON GMO CO-EXISTENCE

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled yesterday (6 September) that honey containing traces of genetically-modified (GM) products, even unintentionally, ?must always be regarded as food produced from a GMO,? paving the way for compensation claims to farmers whose crops were contaminated.

The judgement follows legal action by a German beekeeper who sought compensation from the Bavarian government after he was prevented from selling his honey because it contained traces of GM pollen.

The ruling, which comforted the plaintiff, could pave the way for compensation claims by beekeepers against biotech companies such as Monsanto or governments which authorise test fields.

An EU spokesman said the ruling could hit imports of honey from countries like Argentina, where GM crops are widely grown.

Monsanto stressed that there were no safety concerns regarding its MON 810 maize and said the case was about the legal technicalities of EU approvals of the specific maize variety.

The variety was approved for cultivation in the EU in 1998.

Asking for compensation

The beekeeper, in his demand for compensation from the Bavarian authorities, said the pollen was contaminated by government field trials of Monsanto?s 810 maize variety, which took place some 500 metres from his hives.

In November 2009 the Bavarian Higher Administrative Court forwarded the case and a number of related questions to the ECJ for a ruling.

The court endorsed its Advocate-General?s February 2011 opinion, which noted that honey containing pollen from Monsanto?s MON 810 maize is not covered by an authorisation issued under the EU regulation on genetically-modified food.

Additionally the Advocate-General concluded that ?food containing material from a genetically-modified plant, whether that material is included intentionally or not, must always be regarded as food produced from a GMO?.

Call for zero tolerance

Environmental NGOs and the Greens in the European Parliament hailed the ruling as a victory for beekeepers, consumers and the European GM-free agriculture movement.

The Greens said that the ruling ?directly challenges? the abandonment of EU zero-tolerance rules for unauthorised GM contamination.

Greenpeace EU?s agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer further argued that the ECJ ruling ?highlights how conventional and genetically-modified agriculture cannot co-exist. When a GM crop is grown in open fields, contamination is impossible to stop?.

Her comments were echoed by French Green MEP José Bové, who described the case as ?proof that co-existence is a fallacy and that GM cultivation does not leave a choice for GM-free products?.

For Friends of the Earth Europe?s food campaigner Mute Schimpf, yesterday?s ruling ?re-writes the rule book and gives legal backing to stronger measures to prevent contamination? from GM crops.

EU policy

The European Commission sought to regulate the co-existence of GMOs with other crops in a 2010 recommendation, which is not legally binding. The recommendation was part of a wider package which proposed allowing individual EU member states to ban GMO cultivation on their territory.

Discussions on adopting the new rules are still ongoing.

?When co-existence measures are not sufficient to prevent the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional or organic crops, member states may restrict GMO cultivation in large areas of their territory,? the Commission said.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   HONEY VERDICT GUMS UP GM RULES

SOURCE:  New Scientist, UK

AUTHOR:  Andy Coghlan

URL:     http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/09/honey-verdict-gums-up-gm-rules.html

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Europe?s dysfunctional rules authorising the sale and production of genetically modified foods just became even more of a dog?s dinner. The reason: the region?s highest court ruled yesterday that if ordinary honey gets accidentally contaminated with pollen from genetically modified crops, then it qualifies as a GM food itself. The ramifications are huge."

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HONEY VERDICT GUMS UP GM RULES

Europe?s dysfunctional rules authorising the sale and production of genetically modified foods just became even more of a dog?s dinner. The reason: the region?s highest court ruled yesterday that if ordinary honey gets accidentally contaminated with pollen from genetically modified crops, then it qualifies as a GM food itself.

The ramifications are huge. The ruling by the European Court of Justice means that to sell such honey legally under European law, beekeepers would need to get the ?contaminated? produce officially approved for sale through Europe?s convoluted approval process for GM foods. If cleared for sale, the honey would also need to be labelled as a GM food.

This is nonsense, says the Wall Street Journal?s Market Watch site. The approval process is so complex, expensive and convoluted that the only organisations with the time and money to negotiate it are multinational agrochemical companies.

But it may well open up the possibilities for beekeepers to sue ?contaminators? of their unsaleable honey for compensation, says the anti-GM lobby group, Friends of the Earth.

The case was originally brought by amateur Bavarian beekeepers against the Bavarian state government. The beekeepers had discovered that their hives, honey and honey-based supplements had been adulterated with GM maize pollen from nearby field trials sponsored  by the state government, so they took their case to the Bavarian Higher Administrative Court.

The court couldn?t reach a verdict, so it was referred to the European Court of Justice, which delivered its decision yesterday. It ruled that because pollen, of any sort, is an accepted ingredient of honey, the GM maize pollen qualifies as ingredient, so the honey in question becomes ?produced from GM organisms?, even though the pollen got there accidentally.

?The pollen in question consequently comes within the scope of the regulation and must be subject to the authorisation scheme provided for there-under before being placed on the market,? it concludes.

Friends of the Earth says that the ruling ?opens the way for Europe?s laws on GM crops to be strengthened?, even though the current rules are already the strictest in the world, effectively excluding from Europe even GM products that have been fully approved by the European Food Safety Agency.

For example, the GM pollen in question came from MON 810, a strain of GM maize developed by the US multinational Monsanto to be resistant to the European corn borer pest. It was approved as safe for consumption and sale in Europe in 1998. Commentators quoted in The Guardian say that because the maize has already been cleared for human consumption, it seems perverse to outlaw honey that happens to be adulterated with tiny amounts.

The ruling further complicates existing rules that are already incredibly complex. In February this year, the EU agreed to change its ?zero tolerance? rules forbidding the sale of imported animal fodder if it contained even the minutest trace of GM organisms not already approved in Europe. The rules were unenforceable because fodder, such as soybeans or maize, often comes from places like South America, where production of GM crops is so widespread that it?s practically impossible to grow and transport to Europe crops that are totally free of any GM contamination.

Because of hat, the EU changed its rules in February to allow GM contamination up to a threshhold of 0.1 per cent of any consignment.

Yesterday?s honey ruling doesn?t affect the new rules as they apply to animal fodder, but it does resurrect questions about how much contamination would be allowable in produce like honey for direct human consumption, and who would be liable in cases like that of the Bavarian beekeepers.

The irony is that in the US and Canada, where growth of GM crops is widespread, it?s almost inevitable that huge amounts of honey containing GM pollen will already have been unknowingly consumed, apparently with no ill effects.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   EU BANS GM-CONTAMINATED HONEY FROM GENERAL SALE

SOURCE:  The Guardian, UK

AUTHOR:  Leigh Phillips

URL:     http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/07/europe-honey-gm

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Vivian Moses, professor of biotechnology at the University of London and the chairwoman of Cropgen, an advisory group on GM foods, said: ?These beekeepers believe that there is a sensitivity among consumers of the presence of GM material, that the honey containing GM loses quality. They are just protecting their economic interest. [..] In response to the ruling, the European commission will in two weeks discuss the issue of GMOs and honey with EU member states. According to Brussels, it is likely that the decision will have an impact on the honey into the EU as Europe does not itself produce sufficient quantities for the size of the market."

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EU BANS GM-CONTAMINATED HONEY FROM GENERAL SALE

Bavarian beekeepers forced to declare their honey as genetically modified because of contamination from nearby Monsanto crops

The European Union?s highest court on Tuesday ruled that honey which contains trace amounts of pollen from genetically modified (GM) corn must be labelled as GM produce and undergo full safety authorisation before it can be sold as food.

In what green groups are calling a ?groundbreaking? ruling, the decision could force the EU to strengthen its already near-zero tolerance policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Bavarian beekeepers, some 500m from a test field for a modified maize crop developed by Monsanto - one of only two GM crops authorised as safe to be cultivated in Europe - claimed their honey had been ?contaminated? by pollen from the plant.

The European court of justice found in their favour, a ruling that should offer grounds for the beekeepers to claim compensation in a German court.

But the court?s finding also potentially threatens recent EU legislation, introduced in July this year, that permits traces of GMOs in animal feed without a safety review.

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said that the ruling ?would confirm that existing laws allowing traces of unauthorised GM contamination are insufficient and would need revising.?

French Green MEP José Bové, an ex-farmer well-known for his destruction of a McDonald?s franchise in the south of France and the uprooting of GM crops in Brazil, said that the only protection farmers can have is for a complete ban on GMOs in Europe. ?Beekeepers are powerless to prevent the contamination of their honey by GM pollen, as farmers are for their crops, and thus powerless to prevent the tainting of the foodstuffs they produce and the integrity of their product.

?The only sure way to prevent this is by precluding the cultivation of GMOs.?

Greenpeace, describing the traces of pollen in the honey as ?genetic pollution? said that Monsanto and the Bavarian state should be held liable for the beekeepers? losses as a result of their product having to be labelled as containing GMOs.

However, agricultural specialists criticised the ruling, saying that the decision has no grounding in science.

Guy Poppy, the director of the centre for biological sciences at the University of Southampton, told the Guardian: ?There is no safety issue. This honey is as safe as any other.?

The corn in question is genetically engineered to produce an insecticide that naturally occurs in the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). The production of this toxin protects the maize plants from European corn borer larvae.

?The Monsanto maize is genetically modified to produce the BT protein. But this same protein actually has been regularly used for years as a spray even by organic farmers,? he added.

?The consequences of these sorts of ruling is that new methods of plant breeding, whether GM or other forms that are developed, could be thrown out of potential use, making it impossible to innovate.?

Vivian Moses, professor of biotechnology at the University of London and the chairwoman of Cropgen, an advisory group on GM foods, said: ?These beekeepers believe that there is a sensitivity among consumers of the presence of GM material, that the honey containing GM loses quality. They are just protecting their economic interest.

?But scientifically this doesn?t add up to anything, as the crop has been judged as safe for human consumption.?

In response to the ruling, the European commission will in two weeks discuss the issue of GMOs and honey with EU member states.

According to Brussels, it is likely that the decision will have an impact on the honey into the EU as Europe does not itself produce sufficient quantities for the size of the market. The bloc produces 200,000 tonnes per year and must import an additional 140,000 tonnes.

Argentina and China, both GM-friendly countries and the two biggest importers of honey into the EU, are likely to be affected in particular, the commission warned.

?The honey is not dangerous. There is no health risk from honey in the EU,? insisted EU consumer protection spokesman, Frédéric Vincent, worried that shoppers might stop buying honey as a result of the news.

?It?s an important ruling from the court. I can?t say at this point whether we need to change any laws,? he added. ?The contamination is done by the bees themselves. We can?t put GPS tracking on the bees.?



                                  PART 5

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   COURT RULING ON GM CONTAMINATION BLOWS HOLE IN THE MYTH OF COEXISTENCE

SOURCE:  The Greens | European Free Alliance, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.greens-efa.eu/ecj-ruling-on-gmos-4290.html

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Commenting on the ruling Green MEP José Bové said: ?This case is proof that coexistence is a fallacy and that GM cultivation does not leave a choice for GM-free products. Permitting the cultivation of GM crops clearly leads to the contamination of non-GM crops and other foodstuffs like honey. Beekeepers are powerless to prevent the contamination of their honey by GM pollen, as farmers are for their crops, and thus powerless to prevent the tainting of the foodstuffs they produce and the integrity of their product. The only sure way to prevent this is by precluding the cultivation of GMOs.?"

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COURT RULING ON GM CONTAMINATION BLOWS HOLE IN THE MYTH OF COEXISTENCE

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today issued a groundbreaking ruling in a case concerning the contamination of honey with pollen from genetically modified crops (1). The court ruled that honey contaminated by pollen from a GM maize variety (MON810) cannot be sold on the market, as this maize has not been specifically authorised in honey. The case concerns German beekeepers, whose honey was contaminated by pollen from GM maize during field trials of GM maize from Monsanto. The Greens welcomed the ruling, which directly challenges the abandonment of the policy of zero tolerance for GMOs that have not been authorised in the EU (2). Commenting on the ruling Green MEP José Bové said:

?This case is proof that coexistence is a fallacy and that GM cultivation does not leave a choice for GM-free products. Permitting the cultivation of GM crops clearly leads to the contamination of non-GM crops and other foodstuffs like honey. Beekeepers are powerless to prevent the contamination of their honey by GM pollen, as farmers are for their crops, and thus powerless to prevent the tainting of the foodstuffs they produce and the integrity of their product. The only sure way to prevent this is by precluding the cultivation of GMOs.?

Green MEP Bart Staes added:

?The biotech lobby always talks of freedom of choice, the question is freedom for whom? This ruling clearly underlines the need for EU regulation that would protect farmers, food producers and consumers against the contamination of their products from GM cultivation. Zero tolerance must mean just that: traces of GMOs, no matter how small, cannot be tolerated (2). The European Commission should revise its GM legislation to take account of the interests of consumers and food producers, and not the biotech industry.

?Beekeepers in the EU need their honey to be as high quality as possible, so they have an economic interest that GMOs and other kinds of contamination do not end up as traces in their honey. Today?s outcome could have far-reaching implications for the honey market, with EU countries importing honey from GM producing countries and two of the main EU honey-producing member states (Spain and Romania) having authorised the production of this GM maize.  Clearly, EU beekeepers should not be held responsible for the negative implications of the contamination of their honey.?

(1) ECJ file available at 

(2) Recently adopted EU legislation on animal feed permitted traces of unapproved GMOs despite the absence of a full safety review.