EU stalls again on GM crop approvals

De facto moratorium extended for six months as experts query "scope" of applications

The EU is unlikely to authorise commercialisation of new genetically modified (GM) crops for at least a further six months, after member states decided in Brussels today that three applications before it were "confusing". This is the second time a vote on whether to approve the crops has been delayed.

National experts decided that new information provided by the companies seeking to commercialise products - two GM swede rapes and a GM fodder beet - left it unclear as to the "scope" of the authorisation they were seeking. The European Commission has now given the applicants and their sponsor countries three months to clarify this and will then allow a further three months for EU states to reassess them.

The experts already delayed voting last October so that the companies could substantiate offers to comply with new stricter authorisation rules provisionally agreed by ministers (ENDS Daily 29 October 1999). The Commission said today that member states were still unsure whether the companies' commitments met these rules. In a parallel statement at the June meeting five countries said they would not approve crops anyway until the new rules were formally in place (ENDS Daily 25 June 1999).

The outcome of today's meeting will shock few actors in the European GMO debate; in six months ministers and the European Parliament may well have agreed the revision of the EU directive on GMO commercialisation, allowing biotechnology companies a clear idea of the rules they have to adhere to and member states to assure consumers that novel crops meet the more stringent standards.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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