Brussels, Jul 2004
The Commission has rejected concerns expressed by the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament that the EU's authorisation process for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is 'incompatible with the democratic ideals that the Union seeks to promote.'
Under the current system, known as the comitology procedure, if the Council fails to reach a qualified majority decision to either approve or reject a GM authorisation request within three months, it is then left to the Commission to take a decision.
As in the most recent authorisation cases, concerning two different varieties of GM maize, the Commission's decision draws heavily on scientific assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority. In both these cases EFSA concluded that the GM maize varieties were as safe as conventional sweetcorn, and the Commission duly approved the authorisations.
According to the Green/EFA Group, the fourth largest political grouping in the newly elected parliament, only nine out of 25 EU Member States are in favour of granting marketing licences for new GMOs, and more than 70 per cent of Europe's citizens are opposed to GM food.
In letters sent to the new President designate of the Commission, José Barroso, and President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, the Greens argue that: '[T]he Commission has lifted Europe's moratorium on GMOs and has so far approved each new request to market GMOs in the EU that it has received.'
'The fact that the Commission can make such decisions in the absence of Council agreement and without the backing of the Parliament is incompatible with the democratic ideals promoted by the Union,' the letters continue.
However, a spokesperson for Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne rejected the argument that the comitology procedure is undemocratic, and told CORDIS News: 'This is not the first time we've heard that argument - it's not true, simple as that. The legislative process being used is set out in the Treaty, and was adopted by Parliament and Council in full awareness of the consequences.'
In their letter to Mr Barroso, the Greens 'plead strongly' with him to revise the comitology procedures in order to make them more democratic, including a significant political role for the European Parliament. However, Mr Byrne's spokesperson said: 'You cannot have every technical decision going through a two year codecision procedure. The decision making process would grind to a halt.'
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