Austria criticises EFSA on GMO bias

Some of the EU-25 environment ministers have voiced concern over the EU food safety agency’s GMO authorisation procedure saying not enough independent and national studies are taken into account.

The EU’s Environment Council discussed, on 9 March 2006, the perspectives for the future use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The discussion focused in particular on risk management and authorisation procedures for GM crops, member states agreeing on greater transparency for these procedures and on the need to provide better information to consumers. 

The Austrian Presidency, backed by other member states, wants to re-open the current safety assessments done by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which, according to some member states, has approved GM products without proper research. According to EuropaBio, the member states are “undermining an institution which they themselves established, risking undermining public confidence in a science- based safety assessment and in science itself in their bid to deny access to this technology across all of Europe”.

As to the co-existence of GM crops and conventional and organic farming, the Commission published a report on the implementation of national measures on 10 March 2006. The report concludes that there is no justification at this time for EU-wide legislation on the issue, but recommends legal action against national and regional governments which ban GM crops or apply overly-restrictive laws limiting the use of GMO products accepted by the EU. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have strongly criticised the report.

The Commission’s Joint Research Centre recently published a report on the issue of co-existence to provide a science-based reference to support any future design and implementation of co-existence measures within the EU. Two conferences on co-existence between organic, traditional and genetically modified cultures and on the applicability of the precautionary principle in this field will take place in April 2006. Following the conferences and a consultative process with stakeholders, the Commission will decide if any further action needs to be taken at EU level.

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