GMO Co-existence ­ Choice or Denial?

March 14, 2006

Brussels, 13 Mar 2006

On March 10th 2006, the European Commission reported (1) on the national measures to ensure co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming and concluded that the development of EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming "does not appear justified at this time".

What is clear from the Commission's report is that while some member states have set in place reasonable science based rules to achieve a fair co-existence regime, others have clearly developed disabling rules that are aimed at denying choice to farmers and consumers.

"We note that the Commission's report makes reference to these discriminatory and disproportionate measures. We look to the Commission to ensure that the rules which Member States put in place meet the Commission's own guidelines (2) on co-existence published in July 2003. These guidelines provide a rational basis to set in place procedures to meet the statutory labeling requirements," says Simon Barber, Director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio – the EU Association for Bioindustries.

Co-existence is not a new issue; many studies and farming practices have been dealing with issues of growing one crop along side another crop (3). The EU has set in place thresholds of 0.9% for GM material found in non-GM crops, under this threshold there is no obligation to label harvested crops as containing GM. The recently published Joint Research Centre Study (4) provides the background scientific and technical data that indicates co-existence can function in the EU and that the Community's labeling standards can be reasonably achieved. The report concludes that crop production at the 0.9 % threshold set by the EU is feasible, with few or no changes in agricultural practices.

"Those opposed to GMOs should stop using co-existence as a means to deny freedom of choice to Europe's farmers and consumers. The record of successful co-existence between GM and non-GM in Spain since 1998 is proof that co-existence between different farming methods works," concluded Simon Barber.

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