Brussels, 21 Feb 2003
The Council took note of the program of work presented by the Commission on this topic as well as the schedule and the working procedure envisaged by this Institution to deal with this issue. The Council held an exchange of views on the subject and agreed to come back on this issue once the Commission will have presented concrete proposals.
It is recalled that the Italian delegation already raised this issue in the Council under "other business" at the December and January sessions. A Communication by the Commission on biotechnology and the question of coexistence between Genetically Modified seeds and conventional agriculture should be released on 5 March 2003. Commissioner FISCHLER should address a specific Communication on this subject the same day. The four Commissioners most concerned by this topic (Agriculture, Food safety, research and environment) should meet prior to this Communication.
From the Commission:
GMOs and co-existence
The Council held a discussion on co-existence. Commissioner Fischler noted that co-existence meant that farmers should be able to choose the agricultural production systems they prefer. "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. What is at stake here are the economic consequences that conventional or organic farmers could incur if they have to sell their crops at a lower price because of adventitious presence of GMOs above the authorised threshold level. Of course, it can also work the other way round. If a GM crop has specific qualities and therefore sells at a price premium, admixture with non-GM crops could reduce its value.
Fischler announced that he would present a paper to the College on 5 March as a basis for an orientation debate on co-existence. "I hope that we will come out of this debate with some clear policy orientations and a concrete timetable for the future work. One thing that should be clear is that we all need to work together to find a realistic and sustainable solution to this highly complex issue. In order to facilitate this process, the Commission is organising a Round Table on co-existence at the end of April.
This Round Table shall provide an opportunity for discussion and an exchange of information among a wide range of experts and stakeholders." He further mentioned that the Commission was continuing to promote research activities in this area.
On GM food, Commissioner Byrne clarified that the Novel Foods Regulation remains the legal provision in force. New products would be looked at on a case by case basis. A technical meeting with member State experts will be held on 7 March to review all pending applications under the Novel Foods Regulation and to check which applications can be processed under the existing rules and which are likely to be converted into applications under the new legal framework. Commissioner Byrne emphasised that the purpose of this technical meeting was not to take decisions on any authorisations.
From the Council:
GMO seeds: authorisation procedure
The Council took note of the information provided by the Commission on the issue of the authorisation procedure for new GMOs. The Commission indicated that it would examine this issue in the beginning of March in a meeting gathering national experts and members of the Commission. The examination will deal in particular with the link between the ongoing applications for authorisation and the future legislation in the GMO sector (labelling, traceability, scientific assessment and authorisation of GM foodstuffs and feedingstuffs). The Council after an exchange of views on the subject invited the Commission to keep it informed on these ongoing procedures.
This information follow the two political agreements reached by the Council in 2002 on the draft Regulation on genetically modified food and feed on November and on the draft Regulation concerning the traceability and labelling of GMOs and of food and feed products produced from GMOs on 9 December.