www.czu.cz ; www.raupp.info
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross recently submitted a proposal
that would return to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) a role in the
decision-making process regarding genetically modified organisms. Backers of
the bill, including regional governments, say these powers were taken away
from NGOs by the current law, which President Vaclav Klaus signed in
Februar, September 2004 by Vanessa Bulkacz y.
The law, crafted to bring the Czech Republic into compliance with EU
regulations regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), requires
labeling of all products containing GMOs and requires notification of
properties neighboring those where GMO crops are planted. While the law is
technically EU-compliant, NGOs have voiced concerns that many elements of
the law are not as strict as they could be under EU regulations. And NGOs
were angered by having been taken out of the decision-making loop in the
current version of the GMO law.
It is mainly the unknown effects of genetically modified "super plants" that
bother environmental groups. "We are opposed to growing of GMOs and their
release into the environment," said Magdalena Klimovicova, head of
Greenpeace's GMO campaign in the Czech Republic. "Once GMOs are released
into the environment, there is no way to recall them and no opportunity for
cleaning after the fact."
Klimovicova said Greenpeace is pushing to have an online registry of every
type of crop grown in every field, every season. This, she said, would
reduce the likelihood of unwanted contamination from neighboring fields. But
it's only through NGO participation in the lawmaking process that
Klimovicova thinks this would be possible. "We would like to see the law
return to its original form where ecological and consumer-oriented societies
can take part in the decision-making process," she said.
Cabinet members agreed that the omission of NGOs was the biggest problem
with the new law. "The bone of contention during deliberation ... was the
participation of [NGOs] in administrative procedures," said Environment
Ministry spokeswoman Karolina Sulova. "Parliament deleted this provision
from the [February 2004] law."
To the reief of opponents of genetically modified "super plants," no
genetically engineered crops are currently being commercially grown in the
Czech Republic. They feel a sense of urgency to get back into the planning
process to prevent such a scenario.
The Environment Ministry contends there is no evidence of harmful effects
from GMOs. "Genetically modified produce currently being approved in the EU
has been grown and used as food or animal feed in the U.S. for many years
without any harmful effects," Sulova said.
Beate Gminder, European Commission spokeswoman for Health and Consumer
Protection, agreed. "GMOs have been consumed for a long time already outside
the European Union," Gminder said. "GMOs are tested to an extent [to which]
no other food products are tested, and from all scientific experience we
have, [they pose] no danger to human health or the environment."
Since the Environment Ministry proposed this new amendment, international
environmental NGOs have applauded Gross' leadership. "Friends of the Earth
thinks the Czech prime minister is doing the right thing," said Geert
Ritsema, the GMO campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.
"Hopefully other governments will follow his example."
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