"I/A" item note and statements for the minutes: common position for a Regulation on the traceability and labelling of GMOs and the traceability of food and feed products produced from GMOs

March 7, 2003

Brussels, 06 Mar 2003

Full text of Document 6903/03

Subject: Adoption of a common position by the Council with a view to the adoption of a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms and amending Directive 2001/18/EC

1. The Commission submitted the above proposal to the Council on 21 August 2001. This proposal is based on Article 95(1) of the Treaty.

2. The Economic and Social Committee adopted its Opinion on 21 March 2002.

The Committee of the Regions adopted its Opinion on 16 May 2002.

The European Parliament delivered its Opinion at first reading on 3 July 2002, tabling thirty amendments to the Commission proposal.

Following these Opinions, the Commission submitted to the Council on 16 September 2002 an amended proposal on the above subject.

3. At its meeting on 9 December 2002, the Council reached political agreement on the Articles of the Regulation.

4. The Legal/Linguistic Experts have since edited and finalised the draft text of the common position.

5. It is suggested that the Permanent Representatives Committee invite Council, as an "A"-item on the agenda of one of its forthcoming meetings, to:
- adopt its common position as contained in 15798/02 ENV 777 AGRI 317 WTO 183 CONSOM 134 MI 309 CODEC 1673,
- take note of the statement of the Council's reasons as set out in Addendum 1 to 15798/02 and
- enter in its minutes the statements in Addendum 1 to this Note.

6. Thereafter, the common position will be forwarded to the European Parliament, together with the statement of the Council's reasons.

ADDENDUM TO "I/A" ITEM NOTE
Full text of Document 6903/03

Statements to be entered in the Council minutes

1. Statement by the Council and the Commission

"The Council and the Commission, having regard to the link between the present Regulation and the Regulation on genetically modified food and feed, agree that the two Regulations should be applicable at the same time. To that end the Commission will strive to adopt and to publish in the Official Journal the measure referred to in Article 8(a) at the appropriate moment after the entry into force of the aforementioned Regulation on food and feed."

2. Statement by the Netherlands delegation

"The Netherlands is of the opinion that this Regulation and the Regulation on GM food and feed products agreed on in the Agriculture Council provide important guarantees for food and feed product safety and consumer choice. However, it fears that the confidence of applicants, producers, consumers and the public in the future EU regime will be undermined by problems and ambiguities concerning implementability, openness to abuse and enforceability. The Netherlands has grave doubts as to whether the thresholds adopted in the agreement on the GMO food and feed products Regulation will be feasible for industry and enforceable by the inspection authorities. It therefore considers it essential that in subsequent negotiations on the Regulation improvements are made to make the draft easier to enforce.

The Netherlands also calls for the provision regarding thresholds for unavoidable contamination to be revised in the framework of the review clause in the GMO food and feed products Regulation, because it currently stands in the way of efficient implementation and enforcement. These elements are very important not only in order to maintain the confidence of applicants, producers, consumers and the public. It is also important that the future EU regime does not cause any unnecessary increase in the burden of administration and implementation and does not give rise to disproportionate obstacles to international trade in raw materials for food and feed products which would contravene international obligations. Adoption of the proposal should lead to a resumption of the admission procedure for GMOs to the EU in the short term. When the draft Regulation is finally adopted after the European Parliament's second reading, the Netherlands will review the Regulations as they then exist, using the criteria of implementability, enforceability, openness to abuse and WTO conformity, for the purpose of adopting its final position."

3. Statement by the United Kingdom delegation

"The UK maintains that existing Community legislation provides a sound basis for an ordered return to decision-making on the placing on the market of products consisting of or containing GMOs. We welcome the opportunity to examine what further measures are desirable and practicable to meet consumer concerns about GMOs. However, we see no necessary connection between such measures and the effective operation of existing legislation. The UK urges the Community to restart taking decisions under this legislation as soon as possible.

The UK considers that the main criteria against which the effectiveness of any new measures on GMOs should be assessed are whether they are practicable, enforceable and consistent with our international obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. We regard the latter criterion as particularly important for developing countries that lack the capacity to deliver requirements going significantly beyond such obligations. The UK maintains that the text agreed by Environment Council falls short of satisfactorily meeting these criteria.

Firstly, the inclusion in the scope of the measure of traceability and labelling requirements in relation to products derived from GMOs but containing no detectable genetically modified material is unenforceable and potentially risks undermining consumer confidence. Second, as regards thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs that trigger such requirements, the UK maintains that 1% is the lowest level that can be reliably be achieved and detected at present.

Third, as regards the identification of GMOs in bulk shipments of agricultural commodities, we consider EU legislation should be consistent with our international obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The UK considers that the text agreed by Council does not take sufficient account of these concerns. Consequently, we decided to vote against the common position."

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