Strasbourg, 2 July 2003. The European Parliament's vote in favour of allowing member states to take action to prevent contamination from genetically modified (GM) crops has been warmly welcomed by Friends of the Earth Europe.
The MEPs also voted for tougher labelling of GM food and traceability of crops. GM animal feed will now have to be labelled for the first time.
The vote on preventing contamination now gives countries the power to impose strict restrictions on GM crops in order to protect organic and conventional crops. EU research has consistently stated that contamination will be widespread if commercial growing of GMO crops increased. But until now member states have been virtually powerless to take preventative action.
Although the new legislation is an important step in the right direction Friends of the Earth is nevertheless concerned that:
*The threshold for GMO contamination is too high. MEPs compromised with Ministers and agreed on 0.9%.Current testing techniques can reliably detect GM s low as 0.1%;
*The contamination of food and crops by unlicensed GM material will be allowed for 3 years;
*Member states 'may', rather than 'shall', take action to prevent contamination of neighbouring farms. Friends of the Earth is also calling for strict liability to make biotech companies liable for any contamination or environmental problems.
The new rules will now go to the Council of EU Agricultural Ministers, probably in July. If the Council agrees (which is almost certain), the new proposals will be operational in the autumn of 2003.
Geert Ritsema, GMO Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Europe said : "This new legislation is a welcome step in the right direction and will allow countries to take action to protect our food and farming from genetic pollution. It will also give consumers and farmers more information so that they can choose whether or not to take part in the biotech industry's massive GM experiment. But there are still gaping holes in the legislation, particularly over liability. The EU must make biotech companies fully liable for their actions before any GM food or crop is approved."