A European Commission source has confirmed that EU Member States will be formally asked to lift the de facto moratorium on genetically modified crop and food approvals next week. The source confirmed a leaked memo which said that governments will be asked to accept commitments from biotechnology companies to adhere to tighter rules in preparation for the newly revised Directive on the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sooner than is required by law. The contents of the memo were leaked ahead of a Member State technical working group meeting on 16 October, during which national experts will discuss Commission proposals for GM food and feed traceability and labelling and prepare the ground for the regulatory meeting later in the year. In the memo, the Environment and Health and Consumer Protection DGs say that while the proposal of additional EU-wide labelling and traceability regulations has yet to be agreed by ministers or the European Parliament, the Directive on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs (2001/18/EC), due to be implemented at the end of next year, provides the legal basis for the introduction of interim measures. The Commission proposal for early implementation by companies of the deliberate release Directive was first introduced over a year ago, provoking protest from anti-GMO campaign groups. Adrian Bebb of environmental group Friends of the Earth said the initiative would not guarantee that GMOs had been thoroughly tested before reaching the market: But Simon Barber of industry association EuropaBio welcomed the move, adding that the approvals process should not be used as the tool for blocking [the technology] on ideological grounds. The EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne, is in the USA to discuss the next steps in lifting the moratorium with the US administration. Commissioner Byrne's official visit, from the 7 to 12 October, aims to outline the draft GMO legislation to the US administration and discuss the next steps in addressing the de facto moratorium with a view to lifting it.
Policy making and guidelines
30 October 2001