Brussels, 04 Mar 2003
The Council was informed by the Commission of the resumption of authorisation procedures for new genetically modified (GM) food products. The Commission also informed the Council of its expected communication on biotechnology and on the coexistence between GM-seeds and conventional agriculture due to be released on 5 March 2003.
The Commission informed the Council that currently 19 applications for new GMO products are being considered, 10 for cultivation purposes and 9 for other uses. Two applications have already been reviewed and the remaining 17 are being reviewed.
A number of delegations were particularly interested in knowing more about the Commission's planned calendar of activities in this field. The Commission informed the Council that a decision on authorisations is not expected before the autumn 2003.
Ministers held a lively exchange of views on these two aspects of the Union's GMO-related policies. A number of delegations expressed their concern on the envisaged authorisation of new GMO products currently under review by the Commission and underscored the need for new authorisations to be given only once the regulations on GMO food and feed, as well as on traceability and labelling are adopted. A few countries supported the Commission's initiatives in this area and considered that the entry into force of Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs provided a sufficient legal framework to move forward with the authorisation procedure. Many delegations asked for special attention to be given to the coexistence of GM seeds with traditional and organic forms of agriculture and asked for clear rules to be set up in this area.
The President concluded that this is a matter of great concern for society in general and that there is a need for effective monitoring mechanisms. She acknowledged the importance of organic farming. Furthermore, she called upon Member States to proceed as soon as possible with the transposition of Directive 2001/18 to national legislation.
It is recalled that the Council (Agriculture) was also informed by the Commission on the same matter on 20 February (see press release 6160/03 for further details).