Vienna, 10 Apr 2006
"After two days of intensive consultations, it has become clear how many points are still open", said Environment Minister Josef Pröll at the close of the conference "Coexistence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops – Freedom of choice" organised by the European Commission and the Ministry of the Environment http://www.lebensministerium.at.
The broadly based event brought together scientists, politicians, users and practitioners. "The conference has made clear that the subject must be discussed transparently in an open dialogue", the Minister declared. Limited transparency has been a big problem in the area of gene technology, which began 15 to 20 years ago. "All the open questions were brought up for discussion in a decidedly focussed debate in an atmosphere free from emotion", said Pröll. "There is clear recognition of the need to protect those who want to continue to produce without gene technology in the future." Among other subjects, Pröll addressed the large regional differences in the 25 EU Member States. "However, it has become clear that to organise coexistence in Europe, a stronger legal framework is desirable at European level. This is especially true of cross-border coexistence", the Minister said.
At the same time, Pröll was in favour of allowing much room for manoeuvre for the Member States, which should be adjusted to the different regional conditions. "This is particularly relevant when coexistence is no longer possible because of the agricultural structures." It is recognised that in certain cases, coexistence won't even be possible in the future. "The conclusion of the Vienna conference is a solid starting point for further debates", said the Minister, who hopes for a political solution. "On 18 and 19 April an expert conference will be held in Vienna on the prevention principle. The conference will address the issues of transparency and traceability of the registration procedures for new GMOs in Europe", said Pröll. On the question of limits in seeds, the Environment Minister argued that the legal conditions would have to be improved. However, this does not mean just setting down threshold values, which should be considered separately for each region.
"We expect the conditions to be created in 2008 for a solid basis for decisions for coexistence across Europe, as provided for in the coexistence report of the European Commission", concluded Pröll, who pointed out the strict regulation of limits in Austria. "That is a good advertisement for Austria's position." At the meeting of the Agriculture Ministers in May and at the meeting of Environment Ministers in June, there will be political conclusions and open discussions on the subject.