Experts gather in Vienna to discuss co-existence of genetically-modified crops with conventional and organic farming

April 5, 2006

Brussels, 4 April 2006

European politicians, senior civil servants and leading experts from the worlds of academia, commerce and NGOs will gather in Vienna on 4, 5 and 6 April to discuss future policies on the co-existence of GM crops with conventional and organic agriculture. The conference forms part of the Commission’s consultations with interested parties on the development of efficient and cost-effective strategies to ensure co-existence. It follows the adoption on 9 March of a report on the progress EU Member States have made so far in implementing national rules. The report concluded that the development of EU-wide legislation on co-existence is not justified at this time, in view of the EU’s limited experience with the cultivation of GM crops and the need to conclude the process of introducing national measures. However, the Commission is keen to hear the views of all stakeholders before drawing any final conclusions. Speakers will include Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment and Josef Pröll, Austrian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. Three workshops will discuss different national and regional approaches to co-existence, technical and economic aspects of segregation and consumer attitudes and market responses to GMOs.

“This conference is a crucial step in the consultation process,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “We have brought together people of the very highest calibre to cover all aspects of the co-existence issue. Efficient and cost-effective strategies to ensure co-existence are vital to ensure a practical choice between GM and non-GM produce for farmers and consumers. This is not a question of health or environmental protection, because no GMOs are allowed on the EU market unless they have been proved to be completely safe. But segregation measures must be in place to ensure that accidental traces of GMOs in conventional or organic products are kept within the strict ranges defined by EU legislation.”

Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment said “In an area where public opinion is so strong, as is GMO policy, it is the duty of the Commission to work together with Member States to ensure that rules for the authorisation and use of GM crops respond to the concerns of citizens and protect biodiversity in our natural environment whilst at the same time complying with the functioning of the internal market.”

The EU Member States are currently developing national regulatory approaches to co-existence. On 9 March 2006 the Commission adopted an overview of the state of implementation of national co-existence measures. The scientific base for technical measures to ensure co-existence and measure their socio-economic implications has recently been reviewed at the international conference on co-existence in Montpellier in November 2005.

It is now important to communicate the new insights gained to stakeholders and policy makers and to listen to their views. The Commission believes this dialogue is essential to decide about the most appropriate way forward on this important issue.

This conference brings together policy makers, scientists, and a broad range of stakeholders, such as farmers and consumers associations, NGOs, seed producers, importers, food and feed processors, etc.

Item source: IP/06/4 Date: 04/04/2006

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