Commission challenges the GMO Moratorium

Outgoing Environment Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, moved to grant marketing approvals for three new GMO products, in defiance of the Declarations by 11 Member States at the Environment Council meeting on 24 June that they wished to suspend all new approvals until new safety rules are implemented under EU legislation.

The Commission has advised the Parliament that they intend to ask the regulatory committee of member states’ experts to give the go-ahead to applications for the cultivation and use of two genetically engineered varieties of oilseed rape, resistant to the herbicide Basta produced by Hoechst/AgrEvo/Plant Genetic Systems and to a Monsanto Roundup-resistant fodder beet.

“This is a direct challenge to the de facto moratorium announced only two weeks ago” said Paul Lannoye, Co-President of the European Parliament’s Green group. “In each of these cases there are unanswered questions about cross-contamination of conventional or organic crops and about the transfer of resistance genes to weedy relatives. We shall ask the Parliament’s Environment Committee to oppose these proposals and for the moratorium to be maintained at least until the revision of the GMO Directive 90/229 is implemented and mechanisms are in place to evaluate these indirect environmental safety issues.”

Hiltrud Breyer MEP (Germany) said “Despite agreement by the EU Council of Environment Ministers that the present inadequate environmental and health risk assessment procedures should be suspended until reforms are made, the Commission continues to rely on the old, discredited, system to put forward new approvals. This is either a last-chance act of defiance by the outgoing Executive or a case of the civil servants acting in ignorance of the new political reality. Either way, these proposals for more commercial GMO products have to be rejected.”

Bjerregaard said the Commission agrees fully with the member states about the need to put in place a more transparent framework and to restore public and market confidence in GMOs, but “the general suspension of new – or existing – authorisations does not appear to be a practical way forward”.

Bjerregaard has now written to the concerned Member States to get a clear picture of their intentions with regard to the GMO-dossiers these same Member States have submitted for approval. In particular the letter indicates that the Commission would be interested in any intentions to withdraw pending notifications.

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