Luxembourg, Apr 2005
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 26 April began by welcoming the Bulgarian and Romanian delegations who were attending a Council session for the first time as observers. During the morning session, Commissioner Kyprianou gave the Ministers information about the accidental spread of a non-authorised GMO and the follow up to a memorandum signed with Russia on phytosanitary certifications for EU exports to the Russian Federation.
Fernand Boden, current chairman of the "Agriculture" Council, welcomed the Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Tahir Kabil, and the Romanian Secretary of State for European Integration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Rural Development, Mugur Craciun. "We offer them each our congratulations and our very best wishes for success in implementing the accession process in their countries," Fernand Boden said.
Ministers listened to a presentation by Commissioner Kyprianou on protective measures introduced following notification by the American authorities, at the end of March, that the Bt 10 variety of genetically modified maize had accidentally been spread between 2001 and 2004. This variety is not permitted in the EU. From now on, all European imports of corn gluten (and spent grains) from the United States for animal feed must include an assessment report from an approved laboratory certifying that there is no trace of BT 10 in those products. The use of these measures will be reconsidered after six months.
Since a majority of the delegations were in favour of uniform controls, Fernand Boden called on the Commission for a more thorough analysis to prevent further cases of unauthorised GMOs being spread in the future. "What is at stake here is the credibility in the eyes of the public of all the Community legislation passed recently to ensure GMO safety. The main aim of that legislation was to maintain consumer confidence while protecting Europe's capacity for technological innovation". Fernand Boden also called on the Commission to put forward proposals by the end of the year on co-existence between GMO crops and crops planted which have not been genetically modified, as well as on the maximum thresholds for GMOs tolerated in seeds.
The Hungarian and French delegations' request for measures on behalf of European beekeeping were unanimously supported by all the delegations, since the Council is of the opinion that current legislation favours honey imported from non-Member countries, which is of a lower quality than that produced in the EU. The Council therefore called on the Commission to act by putting forward proposals to amend the legislation in force at present. This would be in the interest of both consumers and European honey production and would also improve product quality. "We had a long discussion on problems in the European beekeeping sector. I saw that there is a great deal of support for beekeepers, for better labelling, and for helping consumers differentiate between good quality and poor quality honey", Fernand Boden said. "The Commission has promised to do all it can to support European beekeeping and possibly reconsider the rules on labelling honey", he announced during the press conference at the end of the Council.
Commissioner Kyprianou also informed the Council of the positive effects resulting from the signature on 15 March of a memorandum between the European Union and the Russian Federation, under which a new scheme will be introduced for harmonised phytosanitary certificates for the export of plants and plant products to Russia. Member States will have until 1 July to adopt the new certificates.
Ministers discussed the request made by the Danish delegation for export support to be abolished on cattle sent for slaughter to non-Member countries, on the grounds that animals are often transported over several days. The Danish proposal that exporting meat carcasses to non-Member countries should therefore be preferred over the export of live animals provoked mixed reactions, some delegations supporting the points put forward while others insisted that it was with precisely these situations in mind that the EU recently adopted measures intended to ensure the wellbeing of live animals during their transportation.