GMO firms offer to comply with draft EU rules

Biotech companies take initiative on GM "moratorium" by offering to accept revised directive ahead of time

Biotechnology companies have seized the initiative in the debate over the EU's quasi-moratorium on permits for new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by offering to comply with proposed changes to the rules before they are set in law.

Monsanto and AgrEvo, which have both applied for marketing approval for new GMOs under the 1990 "deliberate release" directive (90/220), have said they will modify their application dossiers to take account of the more stringent demands that governments want to put in place in the revised legislation.

The move is a response to the quasi-moratorium on new authorisations announced by a number of EU member states in June. At a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg, 11 of the 15 EU countries signed up to one of two declarations which made it clear that they were opposed to any new authorisations before the revised directive is in place (ENDS Daily 25 June). As the draft directive, which was strengthened by the ministers, has yet to undergo a second reading by the European Parliament, it may not be in force for at least another year.

The new industry initiative has succeeded in postponing a vote on three new EU GMO permits that should have taken place tomorrow. It had been widely predicted that the applications would have been refused and referred up to the EU Council of Ministers for a further vote. According to a European Commission official, "a number" of countries said they would like to delay the vote for a month while they look at what the industry could offer. The vote – which was to be taken by a committee of EU member state representatives via a written procedure – concerned two AgrEvo GM oilseed rape varieties and a Monsanto fodder beet which have all been modified to be resistant to herbicides (ENDS Daily 12 July).

A spokesman for AgrEvo told ENDS Daily that the company wanted to collaborate with the Commission and the national authorities in Germany and Belgium over the next few weeks to see what changes in its application might bring it in line with the ministers' common position. "We have to look through the [applications] and see how they comply with the planned new directive. We don't want to cause any problems by having files within the system that are not in compliance with the new directive," said AgrEvo's Wolfgang Faust. Monsanto confirmed it was looking at similar action "to show we are sensitive to the sort of changes that are being discussed".

Mr Faust said that possible changes might include long-term monitoring and traceability of the crops – two areas highlighted as problematic by the June declarations.The applications will be discussed again, and possibly voted on, at a meeting of member state officials next month.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; AgrEvo, tel: +49 30 439 080; Monsanto, tel:+ 32 2 776 4589.

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