Emergency committee discusses voluntary measures to prevent repeat
of GM rapeseed planting
EU governments held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss how to avoid
further cases of accidental genetically modified (GM) contamination of
agricultural seeds. The session broke up without agreement and a further
meeting is set for three weeks' time.
According to a European Commission source, yesterday's session left three
outstanding issues: which seed varieties should be tested, which countries'
exports should be tested, and what threshold should be set to determine
whether a seed batch is contaminated.
The source said a measure of consensus had been found for testing five
crop types for which the EU has approved GM varieties: rape, maize, cotton,
beet and soya. The group of exporting countries to come under scrutiny
is likely to include Canada, the USA, Argentina and Australia.
The Commission is suggesting that seeds contaminated with GM "events"
not approved in the EU should be refused import clearance. Its discussion
paper makes no mention of any threshold below which contamination would
be regarded as acceptable.
For events that do have EU marketing approval under the 1992 deliberate
release directive, the Commission says there should be a "reasonable tolerance"
of contamination. It recommends 0.5% as an "interim" threshold, pending
drafting of a formal law, the same level as recently adopted by the Swiss
government (ENDS Daily 5 June).
According to sources, Italy and possibly other countries are arguing against
this idea, saying that no contamination at all should be accepted.
If, despite the proposed safeguards, contamination is discovered in crops
already sown, the Commission says, then EU governments should take "all
appropriate measures" to avoid risks to human health and the environment.
Destruction of affected crops before flowering "should be considered,
taking into account the level of risk involved," it goes on.
The European Parliament's environment committee also discussed GM seed
contamination yesterday. UK liberal MEP Chris Davies asked a Commission
representative whether a 0.5% contamination threshold for seeds would
undermine a separately agreed 1% contamination threshold for foods (ENDS
Daily 12 January). The official said he "agreed 100%".
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ENDS Environment Daily. ISSN 1463-1776
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