Brussels, 14 October 2005
Subject: European perspectives on the future use of genetically modified organisms
- Note from the Danish delegation
Delegations will find in the Annex an information note from Denmark on the above-mentioned subject, which will be dealt with under "Other Business" at the meeting of the Council (Environment) on 17 October 2005.
Use of GMOs for the broader benefit of society
Note from the Danish delegation
At the global level the use of genetically modified (GM) crops is increasing; it was estimated at 81 million hectares in 2004. 60 percent of the world's area with GM crops is located in North America. The cultivation of GM crops is also becoming increasingly widespread in other parts of the World, notably in Argentina, Brazil, China, South Africa and India. The great majority of GM crops that are being marketed today are tolerant to certain herbicides or they are designed to resist damage caused by specific insects.
Over the past years, the EU has established a comprehensive and stringent frame of regulation governing the approval of GMOs. The rules include risk assessment, monitoring, traceability and labelling. Moreover, a large number of EU Member States either already have rules in place or are in the process of establishing national rules on co-existence. Furthermore, international rules on safe use, handling, identification and transport of GMOs are in place via the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which came in to force in September 2003 and has been ratified by 125 countries.
However - in spite of the comprehensive and stringent EU regulation on GMOs - the Council has been unable to make decisions on specific proposals concerning authorisation of the import and use of GMOs. In those circumstances the Commission has adopted decisions authorising the specific GMOs in question - in some cases contrary to the views of a simple majority of member states. This is an unacceptable situation for the EU, and given that the number of notifications presumably will increase, the Council should discuss how the EU could pull itself out of this situation. Since GMOs are here to stay, Denmark believes that the EU should consider engaging actively in setting the global GMO-agenda by focussing on the use of GMOs for the broader benefit for society including in developing countries.
We propose that the Environment Council at its meeting 2 December 2005 discusses constraints and opportunities related to using GMO technology in efforts to achieve decoupling of environmental impact from economic growth and to using modern biotechnology to enhance agricultural productivity in developing countries in a way that reduces poverty, improves food security and nutrition and promotes sustainable use of natural resources.
Against this background, the Commission could be requested to develop a strategy for EU's approach towards future use of GMO's including for the broader benefit for society as well as in developing countries. We hope that an Environment Council discussion would result in a number of operational recommendations on how the EU can take action including support from the seventh EU framework programme for research in the opportunities for using biotechnology for the broader benefit of society.
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