EU sees marked decrease in GM crop field trials

April 15, 2003

Brussels, 14 Apr 2003

The number of field-based trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the EU has fallen by around 80 per cent since 1998, a new Commission study has shown.

The survey, carried out by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute in Karlsruhe, the Institute for prospective technological studies in Seville, and Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, concluded that the main cause for the sharp decline was the unclear legal situation surrounding GM products in Europe.

Around 22 per cent of respondents cited legal uncertainties as the main reason for having cancelled GM crop research projects. Much of this uncertainty was due to the EU wide moratorium on new authorisations of GM products that is currently still in place, said the authors of the study.

Other reasons given by companies and public research bodies for shelving projects were a generally low acceptance of GM products among the population of Europe, and an uncertain future commercial market for such products.

The survey results also show that large and financially secure multinational companies are most active in this area, and are behind 65 per cent of all field trials. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) only account for 6 per cent of total field trial activity, with the remaining portion being carried out by public research bodies, universities and other institutions.

Despite the greatly reduced levels of GM crop research in the last five years, the study's authors noted that a large number of GM products are currently in the pipeline and awaiting trials. With the recent introduction of new EU laws on the labelling and traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the researchers are expecting to see a surge in EU field trials.

On the subject of a separate EU GMO regulation, one covering their deliberate release into the environment, the European Commission warned 12 Member States on 10 April that they had missed the deadline for transposing the directive into national law.

France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Finland all failed to meet an agreed deadline of 17 October 2002 for adopting the new measures, which include guidelines on environmental risk assessment and requirements to communicate information to the public.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: 'I urge Member States to quickly bring their national legislation into line with the new agreed EU framework for regulating the release of GMOs into the environment.'

For details of the GM crop field trial study, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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