GMOs may leave Brussels' environment section

Strengthened EU Commission consumer department could take over responsibility for biotechnology

Speculation is growing that the forthcoming reorganisation of the European Commission could result in biotechnology issues being handled by the health and consumer affairs department, rather than by the environment directorate (DGXI) as at present. The president-designate of the Commission, Romano Prodi, is understood to want to bring together all matters concerning consumer protection under the charge of the commissioner-designate for consumer protection, David Byrne. If genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are included in this, it would mean shifting responsibility for the 1990 directive governing authorisation of new GMOs (90/220) away from DGXI. Such a change would be welcomed by the biotechnology industry which was not impressed by DGXI's proposal to revise the directive - a text which is currently under discussion by MEPs and national governments. MEPs have so far assumed that Margot Wallström, nominated to replace current environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, would take charge of the main GMO directive, and will grill her about her views on a moratorium on new authorisations during a special hearing next month.

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