Environment ministers want reform of EU GMO authorisation system

Press release - December 4, 2008
Brussels, Belgium — Despite the wrecking attempts by a small group of countries, EU environment ministers have sent a strong message today, calling for an improvement in the way the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is being assessed, said Greenpeace. Today’s meeting marks the end of a six-month debate initiated by the French EU presidency.

"Member states have sent a clear signal to the Commission that we need to improve the way we assess the impact of GM crops on the environment, on our health and on the lives of millions of farmers," said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU GMO policy director. "It's now up to the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority to implement these recommendations."

EU environment ministers have called for assessing the long-term effects of GMOs on the environment, living organisms and health. They also encourage independent research by scientists on GMOs and access to information that is currently kept secret by agro-biotech companies. Ministers meeting at the Environment Council also urged the European Food Safety Authority, which is at the heart of all decisions taken in the EU on GMOs, to consider the environmental impact of herbicides spread over GM crops. They also said that pesticide-producing GM crops should be treated in the same way as chemical pesticides and recognised the right of regions and local communities to establish GM-free zones.

But under pressure from the United Kingdom and the European Commission, ministers failed to ensure that the seeds that are bought and sold in the EU would remain free of GM contamination.

"The Council has put the future of agriculture at risk and has buckled under pressure from the UK and the Commission which are pushing to lower safety standards on GMO seed contamination," said Contiero.

As environment ministers made recommendations for the review of the GMO assessment in the EU, Greenpeace accused the European Commission of showing contempt for the criticisms expressed by the member states about the current flawed authorisation process by approving Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready 2 soyabean (MON89788).

"No GM crop should be authorised until the EU risk assessment process is thoroughly improved and EFSA is equipped to assess the impact of GM crops," said Contiero.

Other contacts:

Mark Breddy – Greenpeace EU communications manager:
+32 (0)2 274 1903, +32 (0)496 156 229 (mobile)