|Author (Person)||Lund, Torben|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.43, 22.11.01, p19|
MEP Torben Lund argues that lifting the temporary ban on genetically modified foods before "safe" laws are put in place disregards the consumer and the environment
Once again, the Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström is pressing for a lifting of the ban on new genetically modified (GM) foods, before rules to protect the environment and consumers come into force.
She tried this, without success, last spring.
The research and consumer safety commissioners are also trying to get the ban lifted. Apparently, they are only doing so after pressure from the
United States and the chemical and biological industries. The wishes of the consumer appear to be completely irrelevant.
I hope the temporary ban on new GM foods, which five countries (Denmark, France, Italy, Austria and Luxembourg) forced through in 1998 will last until we have seen the entry into force of "safe" laws.
And such rules are in the making.
In April, a set of tightened measures for obtaining permission to introduce GM crops into the environment was adopted. Among other things, this implies:
A better risk assessment prior to granting permission, so that all environmental aspects must be taken into account; this also applies to any long-term effects from the interaction between GM crops and the natural environment. A time limit on permission to introduce GMOs into the environment.
Ongoing monitoring of potential hazards so preventative steps can be taken. The use of the so-called precautionary principle for the benefit of the environment and the citizens.
That, as citizens, we must be informed about developments on an ongoing basis.
All these rules represent improvements, which have come about as a result of three years' negotiations in the EU. But they will not enter into force in the member states until October 2002 at the earliest. It is therefore completely unacceptable that the Commission is planning to grant new permits. The temporary ban on new permits for GM crops must be maintained.
Two problems remain unsolved.
First, in connection with the adoption of rules on introducing GM crops, the Commission promised that in the course of this year it would introduce new regulations on traceability and labelling for GM products. These are to ensure that we are always able to trace such products and that, as consumers, we are always able to decide whether or not we want to buy products which have been genetically manipulated. We are, quite simply, entitled to a free choice.
The Commission proposal on traceability and labelling for GM products will not be completed in the EU until the end of 2002 at the earliest, and can then enter into force in the member states as of 2004.
The second unsolved problem relates to the environmental responsibility on the part of businesses that are granted permission to introduce GM crops. If such crops cause any damage to the environment or to people, there must be an unequivocal responsibility on the part of these enterprises.
With regard to this, the Commission has promised to introduce a proposal this year - which has still not happened. In this case too, new rules will enter into force in the member states in 2004 at the earliest.
The temporary ban on introducing GM crops into the environment must be maintained until these two problems have been solved.
It is paradoxical that the slow-working Commission is moving swiftly to lift the temporary ban without the slightest concern for the environment or consumers.
Torben Lund is chairman of the group of Danish Social Democrats in the European Parliament.
Author argues that lifting the temporary ban on genetically modified foods before 'safe' laws are put in place disregards the consumer and the environment. Article forms part of a special report on food safety and agriculture.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|