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Checkbiotech: EU to review national GMO bans from moratorium era
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: October 07, 2004 10:34AM ;

BRUSSELS - Six EU governments face pressure to scrap national bans on
certain gene-spliced foods that had been approved for growing and processing
before the bloc began its 1998-2004 biotech ban, officials said, October
2004 by Jeremy Smith .

Next month EU environment experts will discuss bans on five different
genetically modified (GMO) foods - two types of rapeseed and three maize -
imposed between 1997 and 2001.

Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg used a get-out
clause in one of the EU's various laws that regulates the environmental risk
of GMO crops.

That allows an EU government to restrict, provisionally, the use or sale of
a specific GMO product on its territory if there are grounds for concern
over a possible risk to human health or the environment. The country must
also justify its concern.

In every case, EU scientists said the bans were unjustified and the European
Commission - the EU's executive arm - told the country concerned to lift it.
But this never happened.

Now, diplomats say, the Commission wants to sort out what it sees as an
anomaly from the period of the EU's biotech ban - a de facto moratorium that
effectively blocked any new GMO approvals but ended in May.

Part of the rush to lift the bans, they say, is due to a case filed against
the EU by the United States, Canada and Argentina at the World Trade
Organisation. The three GMO producers say the EU's moratorium flouted world
trade norms.

"Now that the (new) legislation is in force, in theory everything should be
working fine. But the Commission can see that the safeguard clauses are not
necessarily the easiest way to defend the WTO case," one EU diplomat said.
"My impression is that they (the Commission) are keen to get them off the
agenda or take decisions on them," he said.


Last year the Commission asked the six governments for information to
support their requests for the bans to continue.

Only Greece and Austria sent in new evidence, which was rejected by the
European Food Safety Authority as insufficient to justify banning GMO
products already approved for EU use.

EU insiders say France has promised to submit data but is unlikely to do so.
Germany and Luxembourg have yet to respond.

Britain may not play a large role in next month's debate since German
chemicals group Bayer has anyway shelved plans to sell its T25 forage maize
in Britain. The maize was the subject of a partial UK restriction imposed in

"Member states don't like being threatened with legal action from the
Commission. But with the WTO case, they (the Commission) want to be seen to
be doing something," said GMO campaigner Adrian Bebb at environment group
Friends of the Earth Europe.

The experts are scheduled to meet on November 29 and will also discuss
whether to authorise imports of a gene maize known as MON 863 and marketed
by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.


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