MEPs on Environment Committee vote in favour of GM liability

Members of the European Parliament's Environment Committee have voted in favour of compensation for environmental damage caused by GMOs. This, and other amendments to the Directive on GMO releases may put Parliament on course to clash with the European Commission.

At its 21 March meeting, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy of the European Parliament inserted, for a second time, wording that would see those “legally responsible” for the release of GMOs into the environment liable for any damage to the environment and/or human health.

The Council of Ministers rejected a liability clause first time around and the EC has argued that environmental liability legislation should be introduced for a range of products and activities, instead of piecemeal (see related story).

Committee members also added wording that would instruct the EC and EU member states to take measures “to prevent gene-transfer from GMOs to other organisms in the environment”. The Committee, and some environmental groups, are worried that without such a clause on gene-transfer prevention, GM varieties that contain antibiotic tracers (see related story) could increase the rate of antibiotic resistance in animals and humans.

The European Parliament as a whole will debate the changes to the Directive that the Committee has inserted at its next plenary in April. An absolute majority vote in favour is required for amendments to pass.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) is pleased with the Committee’s decisions: “The Committee has reinforced the results fo the European Parliament’s first reading [of the Directive] in spring 1999, and it’s to be hoped that the forthcoming Plenary in April will consolidate this position.”

EU to investigate Novartis and AstraZeneca merger

On a related subject, the EC has announced an investigation into the proposed merger between Novartis and AstraZeneca’s proposed merger of their crop protection businesses.

The EC alleges that the merger risks contravention of competition rules as it “is likely to lead to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position”. In particular, the merged company’s strengths in fungicides for the protection of sugar beets and herbicides for the protection of maize are cited as well as other fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, seeds, plant growth regulators, seed treatments and rodenticides.

The investigation will last three months.

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