EU farm ministers to approve GM crop cultivation plans
Sep. 22, 2010
"The process will go on, the process is going on. We are not going to wait," Dalli said in an interview with Reuters.
The proposals announced by the European Commission in July would allow France and others to keep their existing "safeguard" bans on growing GM crops, while countries such as Spain and Portugal would be free to press on with commercial GM planting.
European Union farm ministers will discuss the plans on Sept. 27, but France, Germany and Spain have already said the proposals would undermine the 27-nation blocs common policy on GM crops -- an argument Dalli said he struggled to understand.
"We are putting into effect the means through which, in a much easier and more effective way, France can achieve what it tried to with its safeguard measures, so this is what I cannot sometimes comprehend," he said.
The Maltese commissioner said he could accept some changes to the proposals if that would win the majority support of EU governments and lawmakers, needed for the plans to become law.
But he ruled out a full review of the EUs legislation on GM crops, saying he would rather stick with the current system that has seen just two GM crops approved for EU cultivation in 12 years if an agreement proves elusive.
In the meantime, the Commission will continue to use its power to unilaterally authorise crops for cultivation and import whenever governments fail to reach a decision, he said.
The blocs executive will submit a long-delayed decision to renew the EU authorisation for Monsantos 810 maize -- Europes most widely grown GM crop -- to member states by the end of the year, he added.
NO PRO-GM AGENDA
Dallis cultivation proposals followed his decision in February to approve the GM "Amflora" potato developed by Germanys BASF.
That led environmentalists to accuse him of pursuing a pro-GM agenda set by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, but the former Maltese finance minister said the decisions were part of a wider strategy for Europe.
"GMOs or non-GMOs dont excite me all that much -- its a question of innovation. If Europe is going to say no to anything that is new, then we are condemned to backwaters," he said.
But Dallis mantra of "responsible innovation" was at odds with BASFs recent contamination of a field of its Amflora potatoes in Sweden with an unapproved GM potato variety known as "Amadea".
He said the companys error -- which the Commission is investigating -- had upset him, and that similar incidents would not be tolerated in future.
"I am pushing to make sure that we also monitor the controls of the various companies operating in this area, in terms of how able they are to manage their production flows," he said.
NEW GM FEED IMPORT RULES
Dalli confirmed that in the coming weeks the Commission would propose a "technical solution" to the EUs zero tolerance policy on traces of unapproved GMOs in animal feed imports to the bloc.
Soy imports from the United States came to a virtual standstill in August 2009 after traces of unapproved GMOs were found in shipments, sparking supply concerns for EU livestock farmers dependent on imported soy protein.
The proposal will harmonise tests carried out by customs authorities, and is expected to introduce a 0.3 percent margin of error for any unapproved GMOs found in shipments, provided an EU approval for the variety is already pending.
"For food, the zero tolerance rule will remain in place as far as raw materials for food production go," Dalli stressed.
As the change would only require rubber-stamping by EU governments and lawmakers it could enter force within months.
By contrast, discussions on the GM crop cultivation proposals could drag on for up to two years, assuming a way is found to overcome government opposition to the plans.
PROPOSED LEGAL CHANGE TO EU RULES ON GM CROP CULTIVATION
* "The current EU legal framework fully harmonises cultivation of GMOs. Experience however has shown that cultivation of GMOs is an issue which is more thoroughly addressed by Member States."
* "The proposal amends Directive 2001/18/EC by introducing a new article which allows member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of authorised GMOs in part or all of their territories."
* "The freedom which member states will obtain will only concern the act of GMO cultivation, but not the placing on the market and import of authorised GM seeds which must continue unimpeded."
* "The proposal stipulates that member states cannot invoke protection of health and environment to justify a national ban of cultivation of GMOs."
* "The measures taken by the member states have to be in conformity with the Treaty on the European Union ... in particular as regards the principle of non-discrimination between national and non-national products and the provisions on quantitative restrictions of trade between member states."
* "They should finally be consistent with the international obligations of the EU, and in particular with the one established under the World Trade Organisation."
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