Brussels, 24 Feb 2003
Agriculture ministers from EU countries opposed to the authorisation of new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have restated their objection to the lifting of a five year de facto moratorium.
Their comments came in response to calls by EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne for a lifting of the ban at an Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels on 20 February.
Mr Byrne argued that new authorisation procedures could begin since the Council has agreed on measures governing the labelling and traceability of GMOs, even though the new rules have yet to become law.
But such an approach was opposed by Germany, France, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria; outspoken opponents of GM products who argued that new authorisations should not be granted until new laws are in place.
'Germany starts from the principle that the moratorium will only be lifted once the rules on the origin and labelling have come into force,' said Germany's Agriculture Minister Renate Künast.
The new rules were adopted by EU agriculture ministers at the end of 2002, but have yet to be approved by the European Parliament, where opponents of GMOs could vote to block the measures.
In the same meeting, ministers also looked at issues surrounding the question of co-existence, the practice of growing GM crops near GM free crops and the related issues of cross contamination.
According to Franz Fischler, EU Agriculture Commissioner: 'This will be particularly important once the authorisations of new GMOs resume and genetically modified crops are grown on a larger scale in the EU.'
The debate centred on the economic consequences for organic farmers whose crops had been contaminated by GMOs or, in cases where GM crops have advantageous properties, contamination by non-GM products.
Commissioner Fischler announced that he is preparing a paper which will form the basis for a debate on the issue. 'I hope that we will come out of this debate with some clear policy orientations and a concrete timetable for the future work,' he said.