GENTECH archive 8.96-97
Fwd: GE maize and European democracy
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- Subject: Fwd: GE maize and European democracy
- From: Purefood@aol.com
- Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 07:34:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: PETER.MORRIS@ams.greenpeace.org (PETER MORRIS)
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Date: 97-04-19 13:14:05 EDT
here is a DRAFT briefing we are working on about the WIERD
process in the EU....
Only one EU country, France, supported the authorisation of
Novartis' genetically-engineered Bt corn (maize) in the
European Union, and even France was not sure. How, then, was
The GE industry is happy to say that Bt maize has
been declared safe and approved by European Union authorities as
well as by the US ones. But the EU approval came despite the
fact that only one of the 15 EU states (France) wanted it, and
even France was wavering. (reference at end). Many people have
asked how the maize was authorised despite so much opposition
and despite the fact that the Council of Ministers of the 15
countries finally asked the Commission to withdraw their
proposal to approve it.
The answer lies in the complex decision EU decision making
rules and procedures on GMOs, which give most power to the
Commission. Essentially, the Commission makes proposals to
committees made up of representatives of the member states, and
those committees can either:
a) vote by majority to approve the proposal or
b) vote by UNANIMITY to reject it.
In other words, under the voting procedures of Directive
90/220, unless all member states UNANIMOUSLY reject something
that the Commission wants to do, then the Commissioners can
ignore the member states wishes.
A brief description of the complex history of the approval of
Bt maize follows, but as you read on, remember that at the
end of the process 13 of 15 countries, ADVISED BY THEIR OWN
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORS, did not want the maize, because of the
poor scientific data in the proposal. Greenpeace says that
scientific data was flawed and incomplete.:
1994 Ciba Geigy gives scientific dossier on Bt maize to French
govt for consideration. Almost all of that data was from the
company's own experiments, but it (conveniently?) did not
contain some negative data which Ciba Geigy earlier
submitted to US authorities (like the fact that it can harm
1995 France passes dossier and decision-making to European
Commission for application under Directive 90/220/EEC
The European Commission proposes the maize to the
so-called 'Article 21' committee, made up of representatives of
the member states. Many of them were doubtful (either voting
against or abstaining). Because they did not reach a majority
opinion to approve the Commission's recommendation, the rules
allowed the Commission to take the decision-making to the
Council of Ministers (that is, the Environment Ministers of the
15 member states).
The Council of Ministers met, and only France was in
favour. Spain was undecided. The 13 other states did not
want the Bt maize, for various reasons. The Council decided not
to vote on the proposal (see 'what if' below) and the asked the
Commission to withdraw the proposal. The wording of Directive
90/220/EEC says that a proposal from the Commission will be
adopted within three months "if the Council has not acted".
By not voting on the Commissions' proposal, the Council of
Ministers are considered to have "not acted", even though they
asked for the withdrawal of the proposal.
The Commission then 'consulted' its OWN scientific committees,
with very narrow terms of reference. That is another story...
Based on those scientific committess, the Commission decided to
authorise the import and cultivation of the maize.
Leaked minutes of the Commission discussions revealed
that the fear of 'trade problems' with the USA had been involved
in the appoval.
Why didn't the 15 ministers vote in the Council and what
would have happened if the 15 ministers HAD voted? The
vote would have been 13 against, 1 in favour and 1 abstention.
Again, they would have "not acted" to approve the Commissions
proposal, and "not acted" to unanimously reject it, and the
maize would have received authorisation. By refusing to vote
and demanding that the Commission withdraw the proposed
authorisation, they were hoping to use their political power
OUTSIDE the committee rules ("comitology") to stop the maize.
This is because they realised they had no chance inside
"comitology" to do so.
Some observers commented that the 13 ministers realised they
couldn't win the comitology game because of the unfair rules, so
they just walked off the field before before the final whistle.
Jan 97 to present
- EU members Austria and Luxembourg have temporarily refused to
allow the maize into their countries, under Article 16 of
- France and Italy have decided not to allow it to be
- the European parliament has voted 407 to 2 to demand that the
authroization is suspended.
- US government and industry lobbying pressure has increased
- An Austrian referendum has overwhelmingly endorsed the
The story continues: within weeks, (probably by 14 May), the
Commission must decide whether to allow Austria and Luxembourg
to maintain their bans on Novartis maize, or allow them to
continue to have trade barriers inside the "common" market. The
current position of the Commision is that these bans should not
QUOTE: "Only one country, France, supported the position (to
approve the maize) and even they were wavering" a Commission
spokesman told reporters. "The rest said, for different reasons,
withdraw it or reconsider it," he said of the proposal. ---
Reuters 26 June, 1996, after the 15 environment Ministers met.
Peter Morris, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace Int, Amsterdam
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