Bjerregaard slams Germany and Austria over GMOs

Commissioner calls for speedier progress on revised directive but insists countries follow the rules

Acting EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard has criticised Germany for making little progress on revising the EU's 1990 directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) during its presidency term. She has also slammed Austria for taking unilateral action to ban a GM crop variety with full EU marketing approval, according to a Reuters report.

Ms Bjerregaard's spokesman Peter Jørgensen said today that Germany will be to blame if - as seems increasingly likely - EU environment ministers fail to reach a consensus on the revised directive when they meet at the end of this month. "They have had all the time in the world to prepare it. If we don't have a common position it is simply because the German presidency has not given it enough time," Mr Jørgensen told journalists in Brussels this morning.

The spokesman said the revised text that Germany recently presented to Brussels diplomats (ENDS Daily 27 May) took the issue backwards instead of forwards. In it, Germany proposed sticking with a key aspect of the current approvals system rather than accepting the European Commission's proposal to alter it. The Commission has suggested that a majority of member states should be able to block a GMO approval procedure; under the current system unanimity is needed to achieve this if the Commission recommends approval.

Although Germany's suggestion was thrown out by EU diplomats, Ms Bjerregaard was disappointed to see it proposed in the first place. Mr Jørgensen said Germany's position would have removed the proposal to increase national governments' say in GMO authorisations. "I am glad I am not the German Green minister having to go out and explain this to the public at large," he said.

Ms Bjerregaard's spokesman went on to condemn another member state for acting outside the rules of the biotechnology directive. He claimed Austria's recent decision to ban a Monsanto genetically modified maize (ENDS Daily 28 May) was against the EU's rules because Vienna had failed to notify the Commission of its intentions. Under the current directive a country is allowed to temporarily ban an approved GMO if it feels that new evidence has cast doubt on the original approval, but it must also notify the EU of its intentions.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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