Presidency Questionnaire for Debate on the Guidelines for National Strategies and Best Practices on the Coexistence of GM Crops with Other Crops

September 23, 2003

Brussels, 22 Sep 2003

Full text of Document 12553/03
Suite of documents 12553/03

No. prev. doc.: 12239/03
Subject: Commission Recommendation of 23 July 2003 on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming


On 17 September 2003, the Group "Friends of the Presidency" (GMO / coexistence) continued its examination of the above-mentioned Commission Recommendation 1 in preparation of the debate to be held by the "Agriculture/Fisheries" Council at its next meeting, based on the mandate given by the Permanent Representatives' Committee on 10 September.

During the meeting, the Commission representative gave explanations regarding topics raised by delegations at the previous discussion and reserved the possibility to present eventual written contributions for a later stage of the present debate.

In reply to the question raised by certain delegations whether, in the absence of specific tolerance thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs in seed used in organic farming, such presence should not exceed the detection limit or should respect the thresholds fixed under Article 21 (2) of Directive 2001/18 or in the Seed Directives, the representative of the Council Legal Service noted that this was a question of interpretation of Regulation 2092/91 on organic farming:

In the absence of implementing measures on the matter, which could be adopted under Article 13, 5th indent, of the said Regulation or under the Seed Directives, a binding interpretation of the relevant provisions can only be given by the ECJ.


In spite of several outstanding questions of a more technical nature already raised at the previous meeting, most delegations expressed their preference for focussing the efforts on the questionnaire to be established in preparation of the debate at the political level in the "Agriculture/Fisheries" Council.

It was agreed to propose a restricted number of questions for the ministerial debate, giving priority to those of a clearly political character, and to formulate them as concisely as possible.

In conclusion, the Presidency undertook to present, on the basis of these discussions, a draft questionnaire aimed at structuring the debate at the next meeting of the "Agriculture/Fisheries" Council. This draft is presented in the Annex to this note.


1. The European Parliament and the Council have agreed that Member States may take appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products (subsidiarity 2 ). Moreover, they invited the Commission to bring forward, as soon as possible, any further necessary proposal. Do you consider it appropriate that the Member States' choice of the scale of measures ensuring coexistence may include particular geographic areas and, in this case, the definition of GMO-free zones?

2. [Should the tolerance thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs in seeds, currently under discussion, be reconsidered in the light of the coexistence debate?]3

3. Should there be a tolerance for the adventitious presence of GMOs in organic farming? Should specific thresholds be fixed?

4. Do you consider it necessary to establish Community-wide rules relating to liability in the event of contamination of conventional and organic crops by GM crops?

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2 of 18 Council 22 Sep 2003

Stem Cell Research (Extract from the Provisional Minutes of the Competitiveness Council of 22 Sep.)

Brussels, 22 Sep 2003

Ministers heard over lunch a presentation by Commissioner Philippe Busquin of the European Commission proposal on the EU-funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The Presidency reported to the Council in the afternoon.

The Council agreed to return to this issue at its meeting of November 2003 and to take a decision in the light of the European Parliament's opinion which is expected to be adopted at the November plenary session (17-20 November).

The Commission presented on 9 July 2003 a draft Decision stipulating that the funding provided by the 6th Research Framework Program for the derivation of new stem cells will only be made available if proposals successfully pass a rigorous scientific peer review and an ethical review. For this purpose, the draft Decision suggests the following criteria:

  • The EU will not fund human embryonic stem cell research where it is forbidden by a Member State;
  • Human embryonic stem cells can only be derived from supernumerary embryos that are donated for research by parents and that were created before June 2002, the date of the adoption of the Sixth Framework Programme. These embryos are destined to be destroyed at some point in time;
  • Potential research project partners applying for European Union funding must seek ethical advice at national or local level in the Member States where the research will take place, even in countries where obtaining such ethical advice is not mandatory;
  • Research will be funded only when it is demonstrated that it meets particularly important research objectives;
  • Research will be funded only when there is no adequate alternative available. In particular, it must be demonstrated that one cannot use existing embryonic or adult stem cell lines;
  • Supernumerary embryos will be used only if informed consent has been given by the donor(s);
  • Embryo donor(s) will not be permitted to make any financial gain;
  • Data and privacy protection of donors must be guaranteed;
  • Tractability of stem cells will be required;
  • Research consortia will be required to engage in making available new human embryonic stem cells to other researchers. .pdf

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