Brussels, 21 Jul 2003
1. The UK maintains that existing Community legislation provides a sound basis for an ordered return to decision-making on the placing on the market of products consisting of or containing GMOs. We welcome the opportunity to examine what further measures are desirable and practicable to meet consumer concerns about GMOs. However, we see no necessary connection between such measures and the effective operation of existing legislation. The UK urges the Community to restart taking decisions under this legislation as soon as possible.
The UK considers that the main criteria against which the effectiveness of any new measures on GMOs should be assessed are whether they are practicable, enforceable and consistent with our international obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. We regard the latter criterion as particularly important for developing countries that lack the capacity to deliver requirements going significantly beyond such obligations. The UK maintains that the text agreed by Environment Council falls short of satisfactorily meeting these criteria.
Firstly, the inclusion in the scope of the measure of traceability and labelling requirements in relation to products derived from GMOs but containing no detectable genetically modified material is unenforceable and potentially risks undermining consumer confidence. Second, as regards thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs that trigger such requirements, the UK maintains that 1% is the lowest level that can be reliably be achieved and detected at present.
Third, as regards the identification of GMOs in bulk shipments of agricultural commodities, we consider EU legislation should be consistent with our international obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The UK considers that the text agreed by Council does not take sufficient account of these concerns. Consequently, we decided to vote against.
2. The Netherlands is in agreement with the compromise reached with the European Parliament and would like to issue the following statement.
­ is of the opinion that these regulations provide important guarantees for food and feed safety and consumer choice;
­ wishes however to draw attention to the risk that the confidence of applicants, producers, consumers and the public in the future EU regime will be undermined by problems and ambiguities concerning its feasibility, openness to abuse and enforceability;
­ stresses the importance of ensuring the EU regime does not cause any unnecessary increase in the burden of administration and implementation, and does not give rise to disproportionate obstacles to international trade in raw materials for food and feed products that would contravene international obligations;
­ would like these points to be studied critically during the review (as included in the regulations);
­ recognises, without prejudice to the points made above, that the compromises agreed between the Council and the European Parliament represent as much as can be achieved;
­ wishes to stress once more that it is proceeding on the basis that the adoption of the proposal will lead to a resumption of the admission procedure for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the EU in the short term.
3. Denmark takes the view that the Regulation concerning traceability and labelling of GMOs is an important step forward, which will help ensure effective consumer information and free consumer choice.
However, Denmark considers it vitally important that there should be clear compensation rules for GMO damage which include both environmental damage and conventional damage (i.e. damage to property or personal injury). Denmark has therefore tried, in discussions, to obtain the Commission's agreement to submit a proposal for such compensation rules for GMO damage. The Commission has hitherto refused to give its agreement to do so. That is why Denmark voted against the common position on the proposal concerning traceability and labelling.
When political agreement was reached on the common position on the environmental liability Directive at the Council meeting on 13 June 2003, Denmark took note of the European Parliament's suggestion that the Commission should submit a proposal on liability for damage caused by GMOs, with the aim of completing legislation in the field of modern biotechnology. At the same time, Denmark reserved the right, in future work, to secure improvements in compensation arrangements for damage caused by GMOs.
The Commission is therefore once again urged to put forward a proposal for amendment of the environmental liability rules so as to cover both conventional damage caused by GMOs and GMO damage to all habitats and ecosystems in the EU.
As the Commission has not yet agreed to submit such a proposal, Denmark cannot support the final adoption of the Regulation on traceability and labelling.