Revision of EU law on GMO releases proposed

European Commission plans stricter labelling, monitoring, more transparent decision-making

After weeks of delay, the European Commission today adopted a long-awaited plan for new rules on the marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union.

The Commission's proposal to modify the 1990 EU directive on the deliberate release of GMOs to the environment seeks to extend labelling requirements for GMO products, based on an informal agreement reached in July (ENDS Daily 24 July).

The Commission also wants to modify the decision-making process over applications for GMO products in the EU, in particular by making the participation of member states more visible. Under the plan, member states would be able to decide on a Commission proposal for marketing approval by a simple majority vote, whereas now unanimity is required.

"In future," said a spokesperson for EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, the Commission "will not end up being supported only by the one member state which requested a particular genetically modified product to be approved."

Moreover, the Commission wants to make it obligatory for an EU scientific committee to be consulted over any application for GMO marketing approval. Currently, there are no clear rules over when the Commission should seek scientific advice on an application.

A further element of the proposal is that GMOs placed on the EU market should be continuously monitored and their safety reviewed every seven years. Specific post-marketing monitoring plans should be drawn up on a case-by-case basis under the control of the relevant national authority, the Commission suggests.

The Commission stressed today that the proposal would significantly increase the transparency of decision-making on GMOs. The results of assessment reports would be published, as would the opinion of scientific committees involved in approval procedures.

According to Ms Bjerregaard, the plan "represents a significant improvement in Community legislation in a very sensitive area, and will hopefully answer a strong call from European consumers". The Commissioner also expressed the hope that the biotechnology industry "will regard these new rules as a clarification and as a basis for building long-term confidence and potential trust with the public".

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

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