Is the Commission “caving in” to US pressure on GM food?

The Commission is pushing for approval of several GM food products before the new Food and Feed Regulation enters into force in April 2004. This would mean lifting the 5-year de facto moratorium in the EU.

The Commission in a recent document to the Council the Commission announced its plans to put a number of GM products to the vote in the Regulatory Committee. It is the first time a list will be tabled to the Committee since the beginning of the moratorium 5 years ago.

The list of products for approval by the Regulatory Committee include a maize (Bt-11) and a field corn (GA21) variety. As the scientific assessment of these two products was finished just before the new GM Food and Feed regulation came into force, neither of them had to comply to the much stricter standards of the new legislation.

Final approval of the GM products by the Council would effectively end the EU’s moratorium.

 

Speaking to EURACTIV, theCommissionemphasised that any possible authorisation would only be applicable as of 18 April 2004, the day when the new laws are to be applied in practice. All provisions regarding traceability and labelling of the new Food and Feed Regulation would apply to both Bt-11 and GA21.

Friends of the Earthhave criticised the Commission's approach, claiming that it opened the door for GM foods to reach the market unlabelled. "The Commission is caving in to US pressure and trying to ram through GM foods using out-dated laws rather than protecting the interests of the public," said Adrian Bebb from Friends of the Earth.

 

The EU's unofficial moratorium on the approval of new GM food products has been in place since October 1998. A number of Member States, including Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, have expressed their reluctance to lift the moratorium before new legislation on traceability and labelling of GMOs is in place.

Two new pieces of legislation on (1) the traceability and labelling of GMOs and (2) GM food and feed were published in the Official Journal on 18 October and will enter into force in November 2003, thus completing the new regulatory framework. Additional implementing measures and guidance for this legislation are currently being designed and should be in place by April 2004. These new rules are seen as an important step towards lifting the five year moratorium (see

EURACTIV 23 July 2003).

The US has for a long time complained about the EU's refusal to authorise any GM products. In May 2003, Washington filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the EU's moratorium (see

EURACTIV 19 August 2003). US farmers say that they have suffered massive losses because EU rules have prevented them from exporting their crops to Europe. The U.S. says that the EU is "acting contrary to its international obligations by failing to base its policies on scientific evidence, and has so far failed to put into place a predictable and timely process for approving new agricultural biotech products.".

 

The Standing Committee on Food is expected to vote on the two GM products on 10 November. Should the products get approved, the final decision on an authorisation by the Council is expected on 10 November or 12 December 2003 for Bt-11 and in the first half of 2004 for GA 21.

The new Regulations on the Traceability and Labelling of GMOs and on GM Food and Feed will enter into force in November 2003, but will in practice only be in place from 18 April 2004.

 

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