Food Law News - EU - 2003

Commission Memo (MEMO/03/41), 21 February 2003

OFFICIAL CONTROL / GM FOOD - Results of the Agriculture Council of February 2003

This is an extract from the Commission's report of the Council meeting

Official food and feed controls

Commissioner Byrne presented this essential piece of legislation adopted by the Commission on 5 February. (see COM(2003) 52 - IP/03/182 - MEMO/03/24). The proposed Regulation will streamline and reinforce the existing control system with added bite, consisting of stricter enforcement mechanisms. It is intended to address the deficiencies of the current rules: patchy and fragmented systems, lack of overall coherence and synergy, lack of definition of responsibilities, non understanding of our requirements by developing countries. The new legislation will improve the efficiency of Member State control services through better definition of tasks, harmonisation and integration of controls across the entire food and feed chain. It will define enforcement measures, including sanctions, and will assist developing countries. Commissioner Mr Byrne concluded by placing this proposal as the third and final and final element of the new food safety system foreshadowed by the White Paper of January 2000.

GMOs and co-existence

The Council held a discussion on co-existence. Commissioner Fischler noted that co-existence meant that farmers should be able to choose the agricultural production systems they prefer. "This will be particularly important once the authorisations of new GMOs resume and genetically modified crops are grown on a larger scale in the EU. What is at stake here are the economic consequences that conventional or organic farmers could incur if they have to sell their crops at a lower price because of adventitious presence of GMOs above the authorised threshold level. Of course, it can also work the other way round. If a GM crop has specific qualities and therefore sells at a price premium, admixture with non-GM crops could reduce its value.

Fischler announced that he would present a paper to the College on 5 March as a basis for an orientation debate on co-existence. "I hope that we will come out of this debate with some clear policy orientations and a concrete timetable for the future work. One thing that should be clear is that we all need to work together to find a realistic and sustainable solution to this highly complex issue. In order to facilitate this process, the Commission is organising a Round Table on co-existence at the end of April.

This Round Table shall provide an opportunity for discussion and an exchange of information among a wide range of experts and stakeholders." He further mentioned that the Commission was continuing to promote research activities in this area.

On GM food, Commissioner Byrne clarified that the Novel Foods Regulation remains the legal provision in force. New products would be looked at on a case by case basis. A technical meeting with member State experts will be held on 7 March to review all pending applications under the Novel Foods Regulation and to check which applications can be processed under the existing rules and which are likely to be converted into applications under the new legal framework. Commissioner Byrne emphasised that the purpose of this technical meeting was not to take decisions on any authorisations.

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