Brussels, 10 Mar 2006
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Report on the implementation of national measures on the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming
Coexistence refers to the ability of farmers to make a practical choice between conventional, organic and genetically modified (GM) crop production. It is also a precondition for consumer choice. The Commission firmly believes that consumers and producers should have a real choice with respect to the type of agricultural products and the type of production they prefer. National coexistence legislation should allow market forces to operate freely in compliance with Community legislation.
Since farming takes place in an open environment, the possibility of adventitious presence of GM crops in non-GM crops cannot be dismissed, and it can have economic implications where the two types of crops have different values on the market. This means there is a need for feasible and cost-effective coexistence measures, which should guarantee that GM and non-GM crop production can take place in compliance with the legal standards applicable at Community level.
Since only authorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be cultivated in the EU, and the environmental and health aspects are already covered by Community legislation, in particular Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms1 and Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed2, the issues to be addressed in the context of coexistence concern only the economic aspects of the admixture of GM and non-GM crops, and the appropriate measures to prevent admixture.
Article 26a of Directive 2001/18/EC calls on Member States to take appropriate national measures on coexistence in order to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products, without, however, establishing an obligation for Member States to take action. This Article has to be seen in conjunction with other provisions in Community legislation and the Treaty. In particular, according to Article 22 of Directive 2001/18/EC , Member States may generally not prohibit, restrict or impede the placing on the market of authorised GMOs.
On 23 July 2003 the Commission adopted Recommendation 2003/556/EC on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming3, which is intended to help Member States develop national legislative or other strategies for coexistence. It contains a list of general principles to be taken into account when developing national approaches, and a list of technical measures.
Appropriate measures for coexistence are conditioned by numerous factors that vary from one region to another, including climatic and soil conditions, the size and dispersion of fields, cropping patterns and crop rotations, etc. The subsidiarity-based approach to coexistence allows Member States to tailor coexistence measures to the needs of their local conditions.
2. EXPERIENCE OF GM CROP CULTIVATION
Commercial cultivation of GM crops in the EU has so far been limited to two events of GM maize (Bt176 and MON810).
In ES, cultivation of Bt-maize was 58 000 ha in 2004, which was equivalent to about 12% of the Spanish area under maize. In other Member States, GM maize cultivation is limited to a few hundred hectares. Therefore, the experience with the cultivation of GM crops in the EU remains very limited.
3. LEGISLATIVE APPROACHES IN THE MEMBER STATES
This report is based on three main sources of information: adopted national legislation and draft national legislation notified to the Commission; information provided in reply to a questionnaire circulated to the national competent authorities; and information provided by national experts through the coordination network on coexistence (COEX-NET).
By the end of 2005, specific coexistence legislation had been adopted in four Member States (DE, DK, PT, and six of the Austrian Länder; see Annex). In the great majority of the other Member States, only draft coexistence measures had been developed. In some Member States coexistence legislation has been or is being developed at the regional level.
By the end of 2005, 20 items of draft legislation from seven Member States had been notified under Directive 98/34/EC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations. In 10 of these cases the Commission considered that the notified measures could create obstacles to the free movement of goods; in four cases it raised no such objections. Two notifications have been withdrawn and four others were still pending at the end of 2005.
The dialogue between the Commission and the notifying authorities under the notification procedure has contributed to a substantial improvement of the proposed coexistence measures even though the Commission's comments have not always been completely implemented in the adopted legislation.
CZ notified provisional coexistence measures for GM maize cultivation for the year 2005 in the context of its rural development programme.
In addition to the above-mentioned coexistence measures, further actions have been taken by Member States and regional governments, which have an impact on GM crop cultivation. Upper Austria and Salzburg had recourse to Article 95(5) of the EC Treaty and notified to the Commission draft legislation which imposed a total ban on GM crops in those regions, thereby derogating from the harmonised rules laid down in Directive 2001/18/EC . Salzburg later withdrew its notification. The Commission rejected the notification by Upper Austria, arguing that the conditions set out under Article 95(5) were not satisfied. This decision was upheld in October 2005 by a ruling of the Court of First Instance4. In December 2005, Upper Austria and the Republic of Austria appealed to the European Court of Justice against the ruling.
Joined Cases T-366/03 and T-235/04, Judgment of 5.10.2005 - Land Oberösterreich and Austria v. Commission SI made the participation of farmers in agri-environmental measures under its rural development programme for the programming period of 2004-2006 conditional on them refraining from the use of GMOs. The Commission informed the Slovenian authorities that such a restriction is not in line with Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 on support for rural