GMOs: Commission takes stock of progress

January 29, 2004

Brussels, 28 January 2004

The European Commission today held an orientation debate on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and related issues to take stock of the progress made over the last years in building a comprehensive EU regulatory framework on GMOs.

It also endorsed the approach ensuring the correct application of the new EU legislation throughout the EU.

"The EU has put in place a clear, transparent and stringent system to regulate genetically modified food, feed and plants. Our legislation ensures that GMOs authorised in the EU are safe for human consumption and for the release into the environment. Clear labelling rules allow farmers to choose what to plant and consumers to choose what to buy. It is only logical that this safe system continues to be applied in practice and that the EU moves ahead with pending authorisations," said Commission President Romano Prodi.

The Commission approved the proposal to authorize a GM sweet corn BT11 for food use which will now be forwarded to the Council for a decision.

It also agreed to submit a draft authorization of GM maize NK603 to the Regulatory Committee, composed of the Member States, for a decision in February.

Furthermore the Commission agreed on the need to address at the EU level the individual safeguard measures on GMOs which have been adopted by various Member States.

The Commission was also in favour of proposing labelling thresholds for the adventitious presence of GM seeds in non-GM varieties in the near future.

The Commission also discussed national measures on coexistence. Since coexistence deals only with GMOs that have been authorised in the EU - and are therefore considered to be safe from the environmental and human health point of view a blanket ban of all GMOs that could not be justified in terms of protection of human health and the environment would not be in conformity with EU law. However, the Commission noted that GM free zones are possible, if farmers decide to produce without GMOs on a voluntary basis. It insisted that national coexistence measures had to be proportionate, taking into account the characteristics of the specific crop, rather than imposing general restrictions on cultivation.

The Commission underlined that Member States are legally obliged to notify all national or regional measures on coexistence to the Commission.

Furthermore, the Commission intends to step up its coordination role and actively support an exchange of best practices and information regarding coexistence.

More information on EU policies and legislation on GMOs can be found at:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/index_en.htm [Table and further information]

DN: IP/04/118 Date: 28/01/2004

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