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1 Chair of FSA also chair of Glaxo - Wellcome.........
2Huge rise in demand for organic produce.Guardian
3ORGANIC FARMS `IN DANGER FROM WEAK RULES ON GM CROPS'
4Byrne promises tighter rules on GM labelling
5 Charlies new year message
6 EFDEX launch - press release
7Wariness squashes pioneering tomato
By James Cox
8 The rise and fall of the GM Tomato Economy- NGIN
9Byrne takes an over-cautious approach to food authority - Irish Times
The announcement today( 12/1/00)of the appointment of Professor Sir John
>the Royal Society as Chairman of the Food Standard Agency, may have some
>The President of the Royal Society is also Chairman of Glaxo-Wellcome, the
>giant drug company.
Huge rise in demand for organic produce.
The record growth of the organic food market over the past year has left
supermarkets struggling to keep pace with demand, leading to fears that
standards could be diluted.
Supermarkets have doubled their sales of organic products - topping the
£1million-a-week mark at Sainsbury's - as pressure from health-conscious
customers beats the hefty price premium on most 'naturally produced' goods.
The surge in demand was revealed last weekend at the National Conference on
Organic Food & Farming organised by the Soil Association, whose strict
specifications appear on more than 800 supermarket lines.
But supermarkets can barely keep up with demand, and some rogue traders &
butchers are known to be exploiting the rapidly growing market by selling
produce grown with pesticides or antibiotics as 'organic' Meanwhile
large-scale agribusinesses in Eastern Europe & Latin America are able to
legally exploit lower EU standards to export conventionally grown food as
"The rate of growth would astonish even the most bullish forecasters," Dino
Adriano, chief executive of Sainsbury's, told the meeting at the Royal
Agricultural College in Cirencester. "What were once niche products are now
part of the supermarkets' main product range."
Growth is expected to continue for at least five years, with the sector
expanding at an estimated 2.5 per cent annually overall.
The Soil Association, which certifies & sets standards for organic farming
in Britain, said there was a growing problem of policing. "There can be a
59% difference in price. It's very tempting for people to offer
conventionally grown food as organic," said Mark Houghton Brown of the Soil
Supermarkets are having to import most of their organic food because not
enough is grown in Britain. "It is possible for big farmers in Bellorussia
or Hungary to get EU certification for a small piece of land and then pass
off as organic other food grown on their farms," said Thomas Cierpka, a
director of the International Federation of Organic Farmers.
The EU is under pressure from agribusiness & supermarkets to dilute
standards, says Patrick Holden of the Soil Association. Because it can take
several years to convert a farm to organic farming, Brussels allows farms
converting to sell their produce after one year instead of up to five in
John Vidal, Guardian Weekly, 17.1.99 p11
-3-------------- Forwarded Story ---------------
Headline: ORGANIC FARMS `IN DANGER FROM WEAK RULES ON GM CROPS'
Wire Service: PA (PA News)
Date: Thu, Jan 13, 2000
Copyright 2000 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution, retransmission,
publication, transfer or commerical exploitation of this information is
By Amanda Brown, Environment Correspondent, PA News
Government backed rules will fail to protect organic farms from
contamination by genetically modified pollen spread from crop trials, it
was claimed today.
An independent study commissioned by the Soil Association warns of the
risk that organic plants contaminated by genetically modified organisms
could be eaten or grown.
This is because the voluntary system of leaving distances of up to 200
metres between them and other crops and plants will not prevent
cross-contamination, it claims.
The report says that contrary to industry recommended isolation
distances "oil seed rape presents a high risk for cross pollination between
source and recipient fields".
It continues: "Pollen dispersal has been recorded at up to four
kilometres by insects -- some 20 times higher than the recommended
isolation distances and three kilometres by the air flow."
The new evidence contradicts the recommended isolation distances
endorsed by the industry body charged by the Government to draw up rules
governing the release of GMOs into the environment.
These stipulate isolation distances of only 200 metres for organic crops
and 50 metres for non-GM rape seed crops.
The report provides evidence of "sugar beet crops presenting a medium to
high risk for cross pollination both with other strands and with wild
relatives in the UK ... significant quantities have been recorded at over
It is currently proposed to plant hundreds of acres of GM sugar beet
this Spring with only six metres between GM crops and conventional
The Soil Association believes the current voluntary code of practice
fails to protect producers of both organic and conventional GM free crops
Patrick Holden, Soil Association director, said current guidelines
constituted little more than the framework for a license to pollute.
He said: "Our six mile notification zone proposals should be accepted
immediately as a precondition for licensing all future trial plants.
"Given the fact that conventional crops are just as vulnerable to
genetic pollution, we see no reason why this procedure should not be
"Protecting the right of consumer choice should be the first priority.
Government Ministers are on record as pledging to uphold this principle.
"This new report provides irrefutable evidence that must force the
Government to amend its GM policy."
The Soil Association is calling on the Government to honour its pledges
and to enact legally binding protection with the utmost urgency to avoid
potential cross pollination from future GM field trials.
Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman David Heath MP said: "Liberal
Democrats have consistently called for a scientifically credible protocol
for future crop trials which includes buffer zones sufficient to prevent
"It is clear that the present voluntary guidelines fail to protect the
rights of the vast majority of consumers who do not want to eat GM foods
and the risks to the environment from genetic pollution.
"There is no point in the Government pumping funds into organic farming
whilst at the same time pumping GM pollen into the environment."
January 14, 2000
Byrne promises tighter
rules on GM labelling
By Kevin O'Sullivan, Environmental
and Food Science Correspondent
EU rules on labelling GM foods will be made stricter as soon as
becomes available to detect smaller amounts of GM material in foods,
to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr
His commitment to tighter regulation when feasible comes as the
group Tesco has significantly amended its recent instruction to growers
grow crops on fields previously used for testing GM plants.
Responding to environmental interests who rejected the latest EU
not being strict enough, Mr Byrne said it was not possible to detect
modified organisms (GMOs) to the 0.1 per cent level sought by the
Parliament. Should that ability arise, the threshold would be lowered.
The new regulations maintain a 1 per cent threshold for GMO
food such as soya and corn, above which a product must be identified as
Meanwhile, Tesco in Britain has indicated that crops could be grown on
GM test sites if there was "at least one year's separation", in spite
of last week's
stricter proposal. It has now said its advice to farmers "would be
reviewed in the
light of further scientific advice".
Tesco's initial advice to farmers was first signalled by Greenpeace.
implied it had been "bounced" into going public before the details were
The vast majority of scientists working in biotechnology said the
not justified scientifically. Rival supermarkets claimed Tesco had not
GM ingredients from its own-brand products. Tesco then said it
farm-scale trials of GM crops - the London Independent claimed this was
the intervention of "a furious Cabinet Office".
Plant scientist Prof Chris Leaver, of Oxford University, said the
Tesco move was
indicative of an increasing tendency of supermarkets to exaggerate
concerns. Taken to its logical conclusion, he said similar controls
would have to
be applied to organic farming as it uses the same toxin to control
Prof Fergal O'Gara, the chairman of the EU scientific committee on GMOs
(which adjudicates on commercial releases of GM foods), said he was
at the Tesco announcement. While it was up to the public to make its
mind up on
GM foods, there was no evidence of human health or environmental risks
current releases, said Prof O'Gara.
With GM products grown in the EU, the Tesco position did not stand up
was "not warranted" based on current scientific information.
Tesco Ireland declined to comment. It initially said the move was "a
commonsense approach to take while the scientific evidence is being
This was despite the instruction being almost irrelevant in the context
growers, as under five acres in the Republic is being used for GM
All GM crops here are destroyed after harvesting.
Audio version at
Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 17:01 GMT
Charles's message of hope
Prince Charles records his message
This is the full text of Prince Charles's message on BBC Radio 4's first
Thought for the Day of the new millennium.
The home page for Efdex Uk is: www.efdex.co.uk and globally at
http://www.efdex.com. Below is their launch press release for the UK.
efdex Launches the First Global e-Market for the Food & Drink Industry.
efdex Provides an Internet Trading and Communications System to All Players
in the $11 Trillion Food and Drink Industry.
efdex, a global e-market company that provides buyers and sellers with
unlimited direct trading, announced today the launch of their first market
beta program. The efdex system will be beta-tested by buyers in all parts of
the food and drink industry in the UK, with sellers from all over the world
participating in the beta test. Full implementation of the system is
scheduled to begin in late October and the next buyer markets to be launched
will be the United States and Continental Europe.
In addition, the company announced today that Ellen Marram has been named
President and CEO of efdex. Ms. Marram brings to efdex almost 30 years of
experience in the food and drink industry, having worked extensively with
all segments of the market. Before joining efdex, Ms. Marram served as
President and CEO of Tropicana and prior to that was President and CEO of
the $3 billion Nabisco Biscuit Company.
efdex allows buyers and sellers to trade globally with maximum efficiency
and profitability. By bringing proven trading technology and in-depth
information platforms to the $11 trillion food and drink industry, efdex is
establishing itself as one of the largest business-to-business e-commerce
companies. Currently, business-to-business e-commerce is a $131
billion-a-year industry and is predicted to reach $1.5 trillion by 2003
according to Forrester Research.
`"In virtually every segment of the food and drink industry, the procurement
process - identifying, negotiating and buying products - is a time-consuming
and often inefficient process,'' said Tim Carron Brown, Chairman of efdex.
efdex's managers and industry board members - as well as everyone we have
worked with - have long felt that a system was needed to maintain and
improve trading relationships while allowing buyers and sellers to
communicate better and to make transactions simpler. The efdex system
provides buyers and sellers with an independent platform which they can use
to facilitate their existing trading relationships and even broaden the
market for them''
back to top
How efdex Works for Sellers
With the introduction of the efdex electronic trading system, sellers will
have access to the entire food and drink market. The system allows sellers
to target their marketing efforts more effectively with the help of critical
information concerning the buyers, such as credit reports and buying
histories. This information allows sellers to target buyers with key
messages and personalised pricing, thereby enabling sellers to establish
personal relationships with their buyers. This 'buyer specificity' ensures
that buyers are as targeted as possible and allows sellers to increase their
"Sellers will be empowered in their marketing efforts", said Ellen Marram,
CEO of efdex. "For example, a microbrewer who may normally only sell to a
handful of bars and restaurants in Manhattan will now be able to research
the entire market which may want to purchase his product. This will expand
his possible customer base and reduce his transaction costs, all with little
How efdex Works for Buyers
The efdex system also provides efficiencies for buyers in the food and drink
industry by helping them find better prices for the most critical component
of their business, while also reducing purchasing costs. In addition, efdex
provides buyers with access to an extensive range of product options,
thereby increasing purchasing opportunities. The system also provides buyers
with a comprehensive database of rated information about the products they
are purchasing and the vendors with whom they are doing business.
Steve Gray, a managing director at Barilla, the world's largest pasta
manufacturer based in Italy, intends to utilise the efdex trading system
beginning in the United Kingdom, "There are tens of thousands of hotels and
restaurants we need to reach to sell our products. Now, with the efdex
system, we can effectively get our message out to the right people in a
timely and efficient fashion.''
back to top
The Business Model
The three key revenue streams of the efdex system are transaction
commissions, communications and analytics. First, efdex receives a
commission when a trade is completed using its system. There are no usage or
subscription charges. Second, efdex realises revenues from the targeted
marketing and advertising opportunities the system provides to sellers.
Finally, revenue is generated from the use of efdex's market data and
analytics - proprietary pricing information that forms the critical indices
that help businesses negotiate trades more effectively. This is available at
a flat monthly rate or on a 'pay as you go' basis and is directly linked to
In essence, efdex is a classic increasing returns business -- as more
businesses adopt the efdex system, others will be inspired to do the same.
In turn, more revenue will be generated as the efdex user base grows.
Using the efdex System
At the front end of the system, efdex delivers low-cost business television
programming from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every working day. efdex uses
television as a user-friendly medium to lead customers into the text
information services, the premium pricing information called analytics and
the trading system. From this television front-end, users will access the
other services at the touch of a button. A key facility on the system is the
ability to personalise information services, ensuring that efdex users are
provided with the most timely and relevant information on topics relevant to
their business needs.
Behind efdex's news feature, the system's real-time trading technology
enables businesses to immediately buy and sell products directly. For
example, a Philadelphia restaurant group can search anytime for the best
prices on lobster and purchase directly from a lobsterman in Portland,
Maine. To provide system users with the most information about companies,
efdex provides buyers with a comprehensive database of rated information
about products and vendors. Finally, since efdex is dealing with all aspects
of the food and drink industry, it is also able to provide users with the
comprehensive analytics, such as detailed, proprietary pricing information,
which are essential indices for trading.
efdex, founded in 1995, is a global company headquartered in Stamford,
Connecticut, USA. Its European operations are run out of its London hub,
while its Asian operations are controlled from Singapore. efdex has
pioneered this field with its strong industry experience and four years of
developing its proprietary databases, indexes, and transactional systems
which cannot be easily replicated. A partnership with IBM provides efdex
with a global software platform with fully integrated transactional systems.
The efdex system will be introduced to buyer markets on a country-by-country
basis, but globally to sellers from the outset. The first buyer markets
coming on to the system will be in Western Europe and North America, along
with all the vendors around the globe who sell to these territories. efdex
can be found online at http://www.efdex.com.
back to top
Wariness squashes pioneering tomato
By James Cox
BRACKNELL, England -- AstraZeneca gave birth to the genetically
modified tomato, a breakthrough fruit no longer grown, processed or marketed.
The Anglo-Swedish biotech pioneer spends $60 million a year trying to
engineer hardier plants and crops. Yet its revenue from agriculture
biotechnology is zero.
But even with European consumers so hostile toward genetically
engineered foods, AstraZeneca executives say the company is ideally
positioned to profit from gene-manipulating technology. That's because
everything in its
research pipeline is six or seven years from reaching consumers.
By then, ''maybe common sense will prevail,'' says Nigel Poole, former
external relations chief at AstraZeneca's agrochemical division.
At the company's research center west of London, scientists are
developing bananas that resist fungus, potatoes that won't blight and
rice with vitamins that make it healthier and proteins that make it
ideal for Japanese sake wine. Researchers also are using genes to
re-engineer corn and wheat so the grains can be made into plastic, thus
reducing the need for oil.
But the company's big discovery is its GM tomato. By isolating the gene
responsible for ripening, AstraZeneca created a firmer fruit. That meant less
during harvest and transport, less energy to process and lots more paste per
AstraZeneca's tomato paste made a big splash on British supermarket
shelves in 1996. Shoppers got 21% more for the same price as paste made with
ordinary tomatoes. Company surveys indicated that 67% of those who tried the
paste thought it was the best they'd ever tasted.
Today, the tomato is no longer sold, a victim of Europe's backlash
against genetic modification.
The company grew its first tomato crops near Fresno, Calif., banking on
permission to eventually grow them in Italy and Spain. European regulators
to give their OK.
Retailers' enthusiasm has cooled as consumers' wariness of GM foods
has grown. AstraZeneca sold the last of its bargain-priced GM tomato
paste in June.
Officials at the company hope to resurrect the tomato someday. For now,
they say, they must wait for a more reasoned climate and debate.
'Frustrating? Extremely,'' says Kendra Gittus, tomato biotechnology
manager at AstraZeneca. ''It was a good, safe product.''
Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin) website at:
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GM TOMATO ECONOMY: 20 FACTS
According to Professor Ray Baker, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chief
Executive of the UK's pro-GE public funding body the Biotechnology and
Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the multi-million pound
research alliance announced in September 1998 between AstraZeneca (then
Zeneca), most famous for their genetically modified tomatoes, and the
UK's plant science institute the John Innes Centre, whose research helps
underpin the biotech industry worldwide, represented the kind of
commercially supported project which would "benefit UK businesses" and
contribute to "the UK's economic competitiveness."
Prof Baker's comments typify the long standing obsession among many
bureaucrats, bio-scientists and corporations, with ***BIOBIZ*** -
building businesses and national economic competitiveness from genetics,
and most especially genetic engineering.
Less than 18 months on it's all looking remarkably different to Prof
Baker's bullish predictions. (Despite the GE economic debacle, however,
most of the same public servants and leading bio-scientists who got it
so horribly wrong remain in position to continue to misdirect our public
Here are 20 FACTS about the rise and fall of what might be termed "the
GM tomato economy."
1. Zeneca (now AstraZeneca), by some calculations the world's
third-largest agrochemicals group, has often been cited as the model for
the development of a life science (GE) company.
2. This Anglo-Swedish biotech pioneer produced its first commercial GE
product by genetically modifying the tomato to make it produce more bulk
and less water content, thus making a cheaper tomato paste possible.
3. AstraZeneca grew its first GM tomato crops near Fresno, California,
permission to eventually grow them in Italy and Spain
4. Two major UK supermarket chains, one Sainsbury's under the guidance
of GE enthusiast Lord Sainsbury and the other Safeway, agreed to offer
AstraZeneca's GM tomato paste for sale in 1996. The prospects for
commercial success were said to be excellent.
5. As well as such GE products as GM tomato paste, AstraZeneca has (like
Monsanto) been developing its own 'Terminator' style technology
(AstraZeneca's is nicknamed 'the Verminator' because it makes use of a
gene from a rat's fat cell) which will prevent farmers from saving seed
from the crops they grow. 1.4 billion poor people world-wide depend on
farm-saved seed for their food security.
6. AstraZeneca currently spends 60 million dollars a year on ag-biotechnology.
7. Its investment in GM-related research at the John Innes Centre over
the next decade is expected to be of the order of 50 million pounds.
8. Professor Ray Baker FRS, Chief Executive of The Biotechnology and
Sciences Research Council was quoted as saying of this alliance: "...
they have the Research Council's full support and build on the major
investment made by the Council over the past few years. These
developments reflect closely the aims of the Government White paper
"Realising our Potential", published in 1993." [
ss/980917.htm ] Baker also stated that
such "commercially supported strategic projects" would benefit UK
businesses, and contribute to UK economic competitiveness. [
9. Within a matter of months of Baker's bullish predictions the two
major UK retailers selling AstraZeneca's GM tomato paste both had to
withdraw it as consumer awareness of the GM foods issue grew and their
sales of the product plummeted.
10. European regulators have still not given their OK for growing
AstraZeneca's GM tomatoes anywhere in Europe.
11. AstraZeneca sold the last can of its GM tomato paste in June 1999.
12. AstraZeneca's GM tomatoes are now no longer grown, processed or
marketed anywhere in the world.
13. Despite its massive investments in the sector (see above),
AstraZeneca's total revenue from agriculture biotechnology is *zero*
14. AstraZeneca's stock (like that of the other gene giants Monsanto,
Novartis and Dupont) has fallen over recent months.
15. The life science model, which Zeneca pioneered, is now widely agreed
by investment experts to be "dead" [http://www.cqs.com/gmosdead.htm -
see also THE WALL STREET TRANSCRIPT PUBLISHES AG BIOTECH REPORT Dec.
NEW YORK -- in which Sano Shimoda, President and Founder of BioScience
Securities Inc., examines the outlook for Monsanto & the Future of Ag
16. Dr Nigel Poole, former external relations chief at AstraZeneca's
agrochemical division, who like Dr Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre
was removed from the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment
(the UK's key GM crop regulatory body) because of his direct involvement
with the biotech industry, says of the future: ''maybe common sense will
It seems it already has:
17. AstraZeneca after looking, without any success, for a buyer for
their ailing agrochemical/life science division ,are spinning it off as
part of SYNGENTA, a collaboration with fellow troubled gene giant
Novartis. The hope is that by separating this sector of their operations
off in this way, SYNGENTA can either be sold off more easily or else its
continued poor performance will do less damage to the rest of the parent
18. Despite the death of the life science model, German life-science
company AgrEvo has still recently got into bed with France's
Rhone-Poulenc to form the world's largest such group under the name
Aventis. AgrEvo/Aventis has been declared public enemy no. 1 in the UK
because of its aggressive promotion of its GM crops in the face of
community resistance -
19. Relations between AgrEvo and John Innes Centre scientists appear
very warm with JIC scientists turning out to explain to sceptical
communities the benefits of having AgrEvo's GM crops (banned in some
other countries - http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/edp.htm), trialed in
their locality. However, the reliability of the pro-GE public statements
of some JIC scientists has been seriously brought into question -
20. The membership of the committees of the UK's public funding body the
BBSRC, which is the JIC's principal sponsor, heavily reflects the
interests of industry. Many representatives of companies and large
corporations sit on the BBSRC's boards giving them the ability to
influence its research and direction (
/scigag.htm ). Among the big corporations
represented are AgrEvo, Rhone-Poulenc and AstraZeneca. The BBSRC's
Chairman was, until very recently, the Chief Executive of Zeneca
QUESTION: if it weren't for the wisdom of the humble consumer, just how
long would it be before we were all living in a GM tomato republic?
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PROTEST at the industrial alignment of independent
science and public service, go to
Public investments in science should no longer serve to subsidise
private interests and outcomes that have no public mandate!
"Civil society must demand a response of who the university and other
public organizations are to serve and request more research on
alternatives to biotechnology." - Miguel A. Altieri, Department of
Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Division of Insect
Biology, University of California
The Irish Times January 13, 2000 SECTION: CITY EDITION;
> OPINION; Pg. 18 LENGTH: 1079 words HEADLINE: Byrne takes an
> over-cautious approach to food authority The proposed
> European Food Authority should anticipate safety issues,
> rather than manage them, argues Raymond O'Rourke BODY:
> Irish Commissioner Mr David Byrne yesterday unveiled plans
> to establish a European Food Authority as the centrepiece
> of a Commission White Paper on food safety. In the past
> year it has been hard to escape issues of food safety, even
> with a cursory reading of the daily newspapers. Dioxin
> contamination in Belgium, the safety of genetically
> modified foods and the quarrel between France and Britain
> over the EU ban on British beef have all been highlighted
> in the news. In one of his first speeches to the European
> Parliament in July 1999, Commission President Mr Romano
> Prodi stated that winning back consumers' confidence in
> food would be one of the main tasks of his tenure in
> Brussels. The announcements yesterday by Mr Byrne are part
> of a strategy to do just that, but will they be successful?
> Mr Byrne advocates the establishment of an independent Food
> Authority modelled on the European Agency for the
> Evaluation of Medicinal Products in London. The new
> authority will be primarily involved in risk assessment, the
> provision of scientific advice, opinions and
> recommendations, as well as communicating with EU consumers
> about issues of food safety. It is disappointing that Mr
> Byrne has not taken the radical step of giving the new
> authority decision-making and law-making powers. The
> explanation by the Commission is that such a move would
> require a change to the EU treaties and would represent "an
> unwarranted dilution of democratic accountability". This is
> a feeble argument against enhancing consumer health and
> ensuring the continued viability of the European food
> The issue of accountability could be easily dealt with by
> specifying that the authority produces an annual report,
> which could be debated by the European Parliament.
> Additionally, the director of the authority could be
> permitted to answer questions about the authority's work
> whenever requested to do so by the Parliament's
> Environment, Consumer Protection and Public Health
> Committee. The European Parliament is ideally suited to
> this role, having been the main catalyst for changes to the
> EU regulations for foodstuffs following the BSE crisis. The
> Commissioner, instead, should have used the US Food and Drug
> Administration (FDA) as a model for a future European Food
> Agency. Over the years, it has built up an enviable
> reputation for protecting the interests of consumers, as
> well as having the full confidence of the food industry.
> The FDA has immense powers, a very large staff and a broad
> range of activities. It can be sued for its judgments,
> while also having the ability to institute legal
> proceedings. The FDA boasts that it protects the health of
> 274 million Americans, at a yearly cost to the taxpayer of
> $ 3 per person. With more than 360 million Europeans, is
> (pounds) 2-(pounds) 3 not a small price to pay for
> protecting European consumers? Unfortunately, Mr Byrne is
> seeking a much less radical solution to the issues of food
> safety, by creating an authority which will be unable to
> give final judgments on issues relating to EU food policy.
> Placing many of the EU scientific committees within the
> ambit of this authority is a good idea. The Commission
> argues that over a short period, the authority will
> establish itself as an authoritative point of reference for
> consumers, the food industry and national food agencies
> with regard to food safety issues. At present, the EU
> scientific committees, with limited resources, have earned
> themselves a worthy reputation for producing authoritative
> scientific advice. As the recent furore over the French
> decision to continue to ban UK beef demonstrates, unless
> scientific advice is acted upon it will remain worthless.
> Mr Byrne must come up with some system whereby the
> recommendations of the new European Food Authority are
> adhered to by all EU member-states. Specifically, regarding
> the UK-French "beef war" debacle, the Commissioner should
> be advocating at the forthcoming Intergovernmental
> Conference a treaty change to allow for "expeditious"
> judgments from the European Court of Justice in cases which
> severely impact on the smooth functioning of the internal
> The Rapid Alert System (RAS) for food emergencies, which
> is activated when the health of EU consumers is under
> threat from a food safety problem in more than one
> member-state, is also to become part of the remit of this
> new authority. This system came into play during the dioxin
> contamination crisis in Belgium, but it was hindered when
> the Belgian authorities delayed by some weeks the provision
> of information to the Commission. Mr Byrne proposes to
> strengthen and extend the RAS to include the animal feed
> chain, but the most effective change would be to introduce
> the possibility of imposing sanctions against countries
> such as Belgium which flout the rules. There are, though,
> important initiatives within the White Paper, which must be
> applauded. The document identifies more than 80 areas where
> European food law needs to be amended and improved. The
> list includes a general food law directive, as well as
> proposals on food labelling claims, foods for diabetics and
> streamlining food hygiene measures. It includes a "Work
> Programme" for the enactment of these measures by 2002,
> which is an important innovation. The Commission has also
> adopted guidelines for the operation of the "precautionary
> principle", which specifies that questions of consumer
> protection and public health, rather than being simply
> scientific advice, will be taken into account when devising
> new food legislation in certain controversial areas. The
> Commission also promises a number of initiatives in
> relation to genetically modified foods, aimed at improving
> the labelling of such products. Mr Byrne has begun an
> important discussion on the future European regulatory
> regime for foodstuffs. He has taken some long-overdue
> decisions, but in relation to the establishment of an
> independent food authority, he has erred on the side of
> caution. A European Food Authority must be able to
> anticipate potential food hazards and rectify the situation
> immediately. The authority Mr Byrne proposes could too
> easily fall into the role of managing food emergencies,
> rather than anticipating them. The hope is that these
> anomalies will be rectified before the Commission finalises
> its proposals for the European Food Authority by September
> 2000. Raymond O'Rourke is a food lawyer with Mason Hayes &
> Curran, Solicitors, Dublin
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