Mixed reception for new proposals to improve EU's GMO decision-making process

April 14, 2006

Brussels, 13 Apr 2006

The European Commission has announced that it is to propose steps to improve the scientific basis and transparency of decisions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The proposed measures have however satisfied neither the pro, nor anti-GM lobbyists.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which carries out its own scientific assessments, makes EU-wide decisions on the safety of GMOs. The new measures are intended to reassure Member States, stakeholders and the general public that Community decisions are based on high quality scientific assessments that protect both human health and the environment. The proposals have been criticised for both not going far enough, and for threatening the independent nature of EFSA.

At the scientific evaluation phase, the Commission proposes inviting the EFSA to liaise more fully with national scientific bodies, with a view to resolving possible diverging scientific opinions with Member States. A number of countries have rejected EU decisions on GMOs, with Slovakia and Austria becoming the latest to announce national bans on certain GMOs. Luxembourg, Germany, France, Greece, Poland and Hungary also have national bans on GMOs approved at EU level.

The Commission also wishes to invite the EFSA to provide more detailed justifications in its opinions on individual applications, when it does not accept scientific objections raised by national authorities.

In addition, the Commission pledges to 'fully exercise its regulatory competences foreseen in the basic legislation to specify the legal framework in which EFSA assessment is to be carried out'. The EFSA will also be asked to address potential long-term effects and biodiversity issues more explicitly in their risk assessments.

During the decision-making phase, the Commission will in future address specific issues identified in the risk assessment, or substantiated by Member States, by introducing proportionate risk management measures on a case-by-case basis in draft decisions. If, in the Commission's opinion, a Member State's observation raises important new scientific questions not properly addressed by EFSA, the Commission will also consider suspending the procedure and refer the question for further consideration.

According to EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, the Commission's proposed measures risk 'politicising' the established independent, science-based safety assessment process carried out by EFSA.

'Any political interference in what should be an independent scientific assessment can only harm public confidence in the EU's food safety system. Any move to undermine the EFSA's scientific independence will also damage consumer confidence in all aspects of food safety - exactly what EFSA was established to address in the first place,' said Simon Barber, Director of the plant biotechnology unit at EuropaBio.

Conversely, the international environmental organisation Greenpeace welcomes the Commission's commitment to addressing perceived policy failures, but claims that the proposed changes do not go far enough.

'The European Commission has taken a positive step by seeking to improve GMO risk assessment in the EU,' said Eric Gall, Greenpeace's EU GMO policy director. 'But it must make sure that the European Food Safety Authority is immediately subject to mandatory guidelines on how to evaluate the risks of GMOs.' Dr Gall also called for the GMO authorisation process to be suspended pending this change, and for previous EFSA opinions on GMOs to be re-assessed.

The Commission intends to discuss its proposals with the Member States and EFSA in the coming months.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2005
Item source

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Professorship in Behavioural Science LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Foundation Partnerships Officer LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman

Nosey man outside window

Head of UK admissions service Mary Curnock Cook addresses concerns that universities might ‘not hear a word’ from applicants