Long-term environmental risk assessment of GMOs should be improved and member states allowed to establish GMO-free zones, EU ministers agreed last week.
On 4 December, the bloc’s environment ministers concluded a six-month process launched by the French EU Presidency aimed at overcoming the Council’s inability to take authorisation decisions on new GM products for cultivation in the EU.
It is not yet clear whether the conclusions of the exercise will actually help to break the current deadlock. Nevertheless, ministers agreed to:
- Improve evaluation of the medium and long-term environmental impacts of GM crops, in particular of pesticide-producing and herbicide-resistant GM crops;
- launch a joint European Commission and member-state reflection group in 2009 to define and consider socio-economic implications of placing GMOs on the market (such as cost-benefit analysis of the possible consequences of the entry of GMO seeds into the overall agricultural system);
- improve the use of member-state experts in the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) safety evaluation of GMOs;
- fix Community thresholds for the presence of GMOs in conventional seeds;
- protect, on a case-by-case basis, sensitive and protected areas by establishing GMO-free zones.