The Commission has referred a number of pending GMO approvals back to the EU’s food safety agency (EFSA) for further review of scientific evidence of the GMOs’ potential effects on the environment and human health.
The College of Commissioners held an orientation debate on GMOs on 7 May “to take stock of the current situation and to set out how to move forward on pending authorisation cases and longer-term issues”. The commissioners were originally due to clarify the EU executive’s policy on GMOs in early February, but delayed their decision.
On the agenda was the approval of three new GM crops (two maize varieties and one potato) to which the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had already given favourable opinions, but on which the Council failed to reach a consensus. Instead of rubber-stamping the EFSA opinion and authorising the varieties, the Commission decided that “in order to take decisions, it needs additional elements of scientific advice,” said its spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.
The Commission is thus delaying its decision on the pending GMO cases until EFSA has completed its safety analysis of the products and confirmed its positive opinions.
Laitenberger said the Commission has “every faith in EFSA” and feels it is the best placed scientific body to carry out a comprehensive, independent evaluation of GMO safety. The Commission will continue to base its decisions on science “as required by the legislation,” he added.
The Commission asked EFSA to:
- Analyse further scientific evidence on the effects on the environment and human health of the Amflora starch potato (see EURACTIV 17/07/07) and three hybrid maize varieties (MON863xMON810, MON863xNK603, MON863xMON810xNK60″), all of which contain antibiotic resistant genes;
- review new scientific information on GMO maize Bt11 and 1507 and confirm the saftey of these products (which engineer their own pesticide to resist insects), and;
- confirm that the scientific evidence on herbicide-resistant GMO rice LL62 is complete.
The EU executive also asked its services to find a technical solution to the issue of low-level presence of non-approved GMOs in feed and foodstuffs before the summer.