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Checkbiotech: EU Commission plans GMOs debate, end policy void
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: February 26, 2005 08:01AM ; ;

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, plans to thrash out soon
where it stands on biotech foods in a bid to end the current policy vacuum,
the EU's farm chief told Reuters in an interview, February 2005 by Jeremy

Apart from guarded comments from some members of the new EU executive,
little of substance has been said on where the EU might head next with its
genetically modified (GMO) food policy. "I think that it's necessary
that...those commissioners in charge discuss this, that we sit down round
the table," EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told Reuters.

While no date has yet been set for the discussion, senior officials are
meeting this week to prepare the ground. In the past, five commissioners
have dealt with GMOs: representing agriculture, trade, research, environment
and food safety.

After that, the entire group of 25 commissioners should hold a debate on
biotechnology, the first time since January 2004.

A number of key EU decisions on GMOs are clearly "on hold" while the
Commission sorts out what it thinks, officials say.

These include the Commission's approval of imports of a GMO rapeseed and a
vote by EU ministers tentatively slated for March on several national GMO
bans that the Commission wants lifted.

The issues to be discussed are likely to be how to break the EU's continuing
deadlock on GMOs, thresholds for GMO content in seed batches, the World
Trade Organisation case filed against the EU for its GMO policy moratorium
on new GMO imports, and coexistence: EU jargon for how farmers should
separate traditional, organic and biotech crops.

Fischer Boel has mentioned several times that she would be prepared to
consider some kind of legal framework for how EU governments should regulate
coexistence on national territories, instead of the non-binding guidelines
they have at present.

Some of the EU's more GMO-sceptic states have been demanding this for well
over a year, but Fischer Boel's predecessor, Austria's Franz Fischler,
always insisted it was each country's responsibility to make its own laws.
Not many have yet done so.

"I'm quite aware of the fact there are different conditions for growing in
north and south, for example," Fischer Boel said.

"We'll see if there are some things that might be the same in all the member
countries. Then we might give all the good advice that we can pick up to the
member states."

But an EU-wide coexistence law could not be envisaged, she said, adding that
the Commission would review all national coexistence laws at the end of the
year and then see if some kind of legal "framework" might be proposed in
this area.

"To make a common legislation for all the member states, I think that's out
of the question because the conditions are so different. That's why some
sort of a framework might be the outcome but it's too early to give a
distinct message on this."


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