|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.44, 29.11.01, p4|
ATTEMPTS to persuade governments and consumers to accept genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their fields and food have been dealt a setback - by one of the European Commission's own expert committees.
In a ruling published this week, the influential Scientific Committee on Plants stopped short of condemning Welsh restrictions on an authorised GM crop - even though it said there was no scientific evidence supporting the measures.
The result has been hailed by environmentalists as a partial victory in their battle to keep GMOs out of the food chain.
"It's the first time the committee has done that," said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth. "On every other occasion they have come down very much on the side of the biotech industry."
Other countries were now bound to follow suit with restrictions of their own, Bebb predicted. "This is going to launch a huge debate in Europe about how you can grow GM and organic crops in the same area."
The EU scientists examined new Welsh laws prohibiting farmers from planting Aventis T25 maize within 200 metres of other farms growing conventional maize or organic crops to prevent the spread of the engineered genes through cross-pollination.
They were asked by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne's department to decide whether the measures were compatible with Union environmental protection rules invoked by the UK to support the restrictions.
But the committee ruled that it was not competent to determine whether cross-pollination of neighbouring crops posed a sufficient "risk to human health or the environment" to justify the Welsh measures.
Byrne's spokeswoman denied that the scientists' opinion was a blow to attempts to boost the fortunes of Europe's embattled biotech sector. "This is not a setback," said Beate Gminder. "We're certainly not disappointed - the committee was simply doing its job."
Margot Wallström, Byrne's environment colleague, could now try to force the UK to lift the Welsh restrictions by asking a regulatory committee of member states' representatives to reject the measures.
The last attempts by the Union executive to overturn national GM bans in Austria and Luxembourg in 1998 failed to win support from other governments, even when the Commission scientists were unequivocal in opposing the bans.
Since then, GM restrictions introduced by Germany and Italy have gone unchallenged. A total of six countries - France, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Austria and Luxembourg - are continuing to block approvals of new GM varieties over safety and environmental concerns.
Attempts to persuade governments and consumers to accept genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their fields and food have been dealt a setback by one of the European Commission's own expert committees. The Scientific Committee on Plants stopped short of condemning Welsh restrictions on an authorised GM crop, even though it said there was no scientific evidence supporting the measures.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|
|Countries / Regions||United Kingdom|