Brussels, 24 Feb 2006
Subject: GMOs: Environment Council's policy debate (public debate) on 9 March 2006
Delegations will find in Annex a Presidency paper intended to prepare for the Environment Council's policy debate on 9 March 2006 on GMOs.1
1 This paper has been prepared by the Presidency in the light of the comments forwarded by delegations at the Environment Working Party on 16 February 2006 and COREPER on 17 February 2006.
Note of the Presidency for
the Environment Council meeting on 9 March 2006
Agenda item: "Debate on GMOs"
1. At the initiative of Denmark and Luxembourg, the Environment Council meeting on 2 December 2005 held a policy debate on the next steps with regard to GMO policy. The Council held an initial discussion on the European approach to the future use of GM crops and foods; in the course of its discussion, broached many aspects of the policy to be followed, inter alia the need for further research on the potential risks and benefits of GMO technology in the light of the Communication of the EC Life sciences and biotechnology - A Strategy for Europe, coexistence between GM and traditional crops and improvement of the decision-making process.
With regard to the decision making process a number of Member States addressed the problem that practically all authorisation procedures had to be referred on to Council level. Such authorisations consistently failed to achieve a qualified majority within the Council (in some cases a simple majority of member states voted against authorisation). As the Council had neither adopted the proposed implementing act nor indicated its opposition to the proposal for implementing measures, the proposed act was adopted by the Commission according to Art 5 para 6 of the Council Decision 1999/468/EC . A further issue addressed in the Council was the role of the EFSA, which currently issues a positive opinion on the risk assessment in practically every application for authorisation, frequently without going into the Member States' scientific objections. The evaluation of GMO maize MON 863 was cited as an example.
2. With regard to the precautionary principle laid down in Directive 2001/18/EC on deliberate release as well as in Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 , and which also applies for Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 , the Austrian Presidency intends to hold a technical conference entitled "The role of precaution in GMO policy" on 18 and 19 April 2006 in Vienna. In this context this Conference will take into consideration the long-term health and environmental effects in safety assessments of GMOs.
3. With regard to what the Presidency also views as an unresolved problem, namely that of co- existence the Commission and Austria will be holding a joint conference on this important topic from 4 to 6 April 2006.
4. In the Presidency's view, it is advisable against this background to continue the political discussion initiated in December at the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Ministers for the Environment so as also to obtain the Member States' detailed opinions on the problems described above, as well as on the other issues which were discussed at the Environment
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